Scotland politics

Alex Neil says he personally backs tighter abortion law

Alex Neil, SNP on Question Time
Image caption Alex Neil has stressed that he was speaking in a personal capacity

Scotland's Health Secretary Alex Neil has said his personal view is that the 24-week limit for terminating pregnancies should be reduced.

Mr Neil told the Scotland on Sunday newspaper that the issue could be looked at in an independent Scotland.

Legislation regulating abortion is currently a matter for the UK parliament.

The UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has backed a reduction from 24 weeks to 12 weeks.

Prime Minister David Cameron insisted, however, that the government at Westminster had "no plans" to bring in new laws governing when a women could legally have an abortion.

In the newspaper interview, Mr Neil declined to say what time limit he thought was appropriate.

Speaking after its publication, Mr Neil also stressed that no change in the law was imminent.

He said: "There is no government or party policy on the issue of abortion - either now or in an independent Scotland - because it always has been and always will be a matter for the conscience of individual parliamentarians.

"Therefore, by definition, there are no government proposals to reduce the current 24-week time limit."

Pro-choice campaigners have voiced their concern about the minister's remarks.

Darinka Aleksic, of the group Abortion Rights, said: "It is very disappointing to see Alex Neil jumping on the abortion time limit bandwagon in this way, and it's particularly alarming that he seems unconcerned by the prospect of women being forced to travel to England to obtain a safe, legal abortion.

"This shows real disregard for women's safety and well-being.

"We would urge Mr Neil to listen to health professionals who overwhelmingly support the current 24 week time limit."

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