SNP MSP John Mason should apologise to NHS staff over “baseless” comments on consent for abortion, the party’s policy chief has said.

Toni Giugliano also said he is working with party branches with the aim of getting discussion around progress on "buffer zones" around hospitals and health clinics on the agenda at the next SNP conference.

The comments by the SNP’s policy convener come after Mason claimed there is “considerable scepticism” around the requirement for informed consent for abortions.

Mason has also been criticised by Nicola Sturgeon for claiming clinics are “pushing abortion without laying out the pros and cons.”

Giugliano told The National he believed Mason should apologise to NHS staff.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon condemns anti-abortion protestors at FMQs

He said: “I am intrigued as to why he is questioning the way in which they seek consent from patients on abortion.

"Is he questioning the way he seeks consent from other procedures like hysterectomies or brain surgery or whatever it may be? Is it just abortion he is questioning their ability to seek consent from patients?

“If so why? And quite frankly it is a baseless assertion, as all NHS staff are trained thoroughly on consent.

“These are baseless assertions and I think he should apologise to NHS staff – who are also victims of the intimidation that we see increasing outside our hospitals.”

A resolution to back the introduction of “safe zones” around Scottish hospitals and health clinics where women are having abortions was drafted in 2018 for SNP conference but did not appear on the final agenda.

Giugliano said it was important to bring it to the next SNP conference in light of recent protests in Scotland and the Roe v Wade situation in the USA.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon warns removal of abortion rights in US will be 'unsafe'

He said: “The Programme for Government has a specific commitment around supporting local authorities with by-laws around this.

“As far I am concerned the party needs to be able to express a very strong position on this as well.

“I have over the past few days been in touch with branches to ensure that we do bring that to conference and as policy convenor, I will do my best to ensure that we see this on the agenda and that it is discussed at conference.

“As a party of government it is absolutely critical that we continue to have discussions at party conference that are of the utmost importance to the people of Scotland.

“Given the politics of the Roe vs Wade situation in the States and the political situation we find ourselves in, now is the right time to take a stance on this issue.”

READ MORE: Human Rights laws slowing action on abortion clinic buffer zones

He added: “I am keen for the Government to accelerate on this, I appreciate that as the First Minister has said there are legal questions that need to be sorted out.

“But from a political perspective the party also needs to reaffirm its support both to women and staff and that is why I am keen to see that at conference.”

When asked when the conference would take place, he said he did not have a date as yet but had been told it will be summer.

“Hopefully action is taken before we get to a conference, but I think it is important to take that stance,” he added.