Ministerial Working Group – Abortion Buffer Zones minutes: August 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 23 August 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport (Chair)
  • Ash Regan MSP, Minister for Community Safety
  • Professor Sharon Cameron, NHS Lothian
  • Dr Audrey Brown, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
  • Kevin McKee, City of Edinburgh Council/SOLAR
  • Cllr Deena Tissera, Aberdeen City Council
  • Jenni Lawson, Aberdeen City Council
  • Elaine Galletly, Glasgow City Council/SOLAR
  • Elisa Bevacqua, CoSLA
  • Stewart Kirk, Police Scotland
  • Murray Starkey, Police Scotland
  • Sam Baker, Scottish Government
  • Harriet Rogerson, Scottish Government
  • Ross Grant, Scottish Government
  • Zarah Kobbacy, Scottish Government
  • David Bell, Scottish Government
  • Sinéad Power, Scottish Government
  • Secretariat, David McIlhinney, Scottish Government

In attendance (part of meeting only)

  • Sam Tedcastle, Centre for Good Relations
  • Abdul Rahim, Centre for Good Relations
  • Naomi Head, Centre for Good Relations


  • Anil Gupta, CoSLA
  • Jon Ferrer, City of Edinburgh Council 
  • Keith Brown MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans
  • Cllr Maureen Chalmers, CoSLA
  • PI Norman Towler, Police Scotland
  • Ben MacPherson MSP, Minister for Social Security and Local Government
  • PI Neil Burns, Police Scotland
  • Rachael Craik, City of Edinburgh Council

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport welcomed attendees to the meeting and introduced new members.

Minute of previous meeting of 21 April 2022

The group approved the minute of the meeting of 21 April 2022 as an accurate reflection of the discussion.

Update on Safe Access Zone Research

Ms Todd provided an update on the contract for the Safe Access Zones research, confirming that this has been awarded. This research is intended to build a holistic picture of protests and their impact in Scotland. 

An objective evidence base was agreed to be critical.  Whilst the research would take some time and so was unlikely to be able to feed in prior to Ms Mackay’s Bill being introduced into the Parliament, it would still provide valuable evidence at a later stage.

Update on discussions with Gillian Mackay MSP

Ms Todd noted that the consultation on Gillian Mackay MSP’s proposed Member’s Bill closed on 11 August 2022. The Scottish Government was continuing to engage with Ms Mackay to discuss the support the SG could offer. 

It was noted that the Scottish Government also awaited the UK Supreme Court judgment on the Northern Irish Safe Access Zones Bill, which was expected in the autumn, to consider how this might impact on Ms Mackay’s proposals.

She suggested providing a more detailed update on next steps at the next meeting and indicated she would see if Ms Mackay was able to attend the meeting.

Preparations for the technical meeting on 29 August 2022 – byelaws

Ms Todd provided an overview of the technical meeting, confirming that this would take place on 29 August and involve CoSLA, the most affected local authorities, Police Scotland and the Scottish Government. The meeting had been scheduled with a limited number of attendees to ensure an open conversation on the potential use of byelaws as an interim measure whilst national legislation is being progressed.

The group discussed a paper on the byelaw process, which was to be circulated in advance of the technical meeting. There was discussion about the timescales needed for some elements of the process, particularly the time needed for local authorities to gather evidence and for options appraisal as a result. It was agreed that a timescale range could be noted in the paper, but that this would depend to some extent how much evidence was already available from other parties (such as Back Off Scotland, the clinic or Police Scotland) for a particular site.

It was also noted that Aberdeen City Council would be considering a report on the matter the following day, which could also be discussed at the technical meeting.

Update on civic mediation scoping exercise – feedback from the Centre for Good Relations and discussion on next steps

The Centre for Good Relations reported that they had completed their initial scoping exercise and fed back to the group. They had circulated a summary paper in advance.

The Centre for Good Relations work was focussed on understanding the relationships between the various parties. This work identified the emerging lines of conflict or disagreement between parties and looked to identify opportunities for intervention.

The Centre for Good Relations noted that, while most parties they had spoken to were willing to engage in further dialogue to some extent, not all were. There was therefore consideration needed as to whether there should be further engagement.

Timing of next meeting and any other business

The next meeting of the group was to be scheduled for late October or early November.

There was no other business.

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