SCOTLAND’S two largest cities should trial “buffer zones” to block anti-abortion protesters outside hospitals, the First Minister has said.

Nicola Sturgeon convened an emergency summit on the issue and said she hoped Glasgow and Edinburgh would use the powers available to them to block protests outside abortion clinics.

She pledged the support of the Scottish Government to any local authorities which faced legal challenges and said she was prepared to “dig in” for a drawn-out legal battle to enact a nation-wide ban in law, reports The Herald.

It followed increasingly noisy and visible protests by anti-abortion campaigners outside the Sandyford Clinic in Glasgow and Chalmers Centre in Edinburgh.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon says abortion summit was ‘constructive and helpful’

Anti-abortion campaigners will be cheered by the historic decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn the country’s decades-old law which protected a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

It is feared this could fuel further protests against abortion providers in Scotland.

The First Minister said: “I think councils understandably will be nervous about a legal challenge to what they do and I’m keen that the government offers as much support in withstanding that as possible and to help deal with the implications of it.

“Glasgow and Edinburgh clearly are the councils where this is the biggest issue, although there are other health boards who are seeing these protests. 

“I don’t have the power to pick a council and say you will do this, but I’m certainly keen to have discussions with Cosla and with willing councils.

“Glasgow and Edinburgh I would hope would be round that table, to look at whether one or both of them might be prepared, with the right support and backing from the government, to use the byelaw powers that they have.

“Given the location of the most high-profile of these protests, Glasgow is an obvious place that you would want to see this.” 

The London borough of Ealing had taken three years to set up the UK’s first buffer zone around an abortion clinic in 2018 and faced legal challenges from anti-abortion activists, Sturgeon added.

She said this could be replicated in Scotland and drew a comparison to the Government’s battle with drinks manufacturers over minimum unit pricing.

She said: “These things can take a while. Mimimum pricing is a good example here. 

“All of the bets were against us prevailing on minimum pricing at every stage and we did.

“Sometimes you just have to be prepared to dig in and defend what it is you think is the right thing to do.”

It comes amid a row within the SNP after the anti-abortion MP John Mason was criticised by his party’s education secretary after saying he supported the US for overturning the federal protection of abortion.