SNP MSP John Mason has been disciplined by party bosses after defending anti-abortion protests outside of hospitals and clinics.

Mason was given a written warning after his remarks on abortion rights and buffer zones outside of clinics and was accused of causing women “great distress”. The Glasgow Shettleston MSP was also told that his comments on abortion have been regarded as “misinformation by medical professionals”.

A leaked letter published by the Daily Record from party whips reads: “Your lack of sensitivity especially in the current context has been noted.

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“Your behaviour and conduct have been extremely disappointing, and we believe that you have brought the Parliamentary group into disrepute.”

In the Programme for Government announced at the start of this year’s Holyrood term, the Scottish Government backed Scottish Greens MSP Gillian Mackay’s private member's bill to introduce 150-meter buffer zones around abortion providers.

There has been an increase in the number of anti-abortion protestors targeting clinics in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen in the past year.

SNP MSPs support women’s right to choose, but Mason has repeatedly declared his opposition to abortion and has been heavily criticised for his comments in support of the protesters, whom he claimed were holding vigils.

The National: The consultation on Mackay's member's bill closed after receiving 12,000 responsesThe consultation on Mackay's member's bill closed after receiving 12,000 responses

He also claimed that he had spoken to patients who suffered “very bad experiences” at abortion clinics and that they “effectively found themselves on a conveyor belt”. A letter dated June 29 to Mason from SNP MPs and party whips Stuart McMillan and Gordon MacDonald, pulled him up on his comments over the issue.

They wrote: “We would like to make it clear that we absolutely respect your right to hold your views on abortion and your right to freedom of speech and expression.

“We do not, however, believe that you have the right to impose these views on others.

“The verbalisation of your views has caused great distress and trauma to many women and have also been regarded as misinformation by medical professionals.

“As you know, the First Minister has committed to exploring all possible options to ensure safe access zones for women and girls accessing healthcare.”

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The letter set out that the party considered Mason’s comments a “serious” breach and issued a written warning, which will stay on file for 24 months.

“During which time there must be no further breaches,” they added.

Mason’s response, also leaked to the Record, read: “You say that I have the ‘right to freedom of speech and expression’ on abortion but later that the ‘verbalisation of your views has caused great distress and trauma’. I am struggling to see how these two fit together.”

He continued: “I accept that for many people who have decided on an abortion, they are content with the service provided.

“However, for at least some women who perhaps were being coerced or who had not fully made up their minds, they consider that they have had a bad experience.”

Mason added that the science behind abortion is what “persuades me to oppose abortion rather than my faith”. Back Off Scotland, a campaign group which supports buffer zones around hospitals, criticised Mason’s views on abortion.

They said: “John is obviously entitled to his own views on abortion, but he cannot use his platform as a parliamentarian to spread harmful narratives about abortion access in Scotland.

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“Whilst we’re glad the SNP have taken action on this, John has continued to spread misinformation and cause distress since this [discipline] letter was sent in June which is unacceptable.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “We don’t comment on internal party matters.”

The SNP added that Mason would not be commenting.