SCOTTISH Green MSP Gillian Mackay has said she hopes she has “inspired other campaigners” after winning the Public Campaign of the Year award for her work on creating protest-free buffer zones around abortion clinics. 

Together with Back Off Scotland, the MSP for Central Scotland was honoured at The Herald Scottish Politician of the Year Awards in Edinburgh on Thursday evening. 

Earlier this year, Mackay introduced a member’s bill which will create buffer zones around abortion clinics across Scotland.

Work is still under way on processing responses to the consultation on the legislation but it has received a lot of support, including from the First Minister

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Paying tribute to everybody involved, Mackay said: “I hope this inspires other campaigners and women in particular never to accept intimidation as the norm, to use their voice and to believe that the day will come when we will have the power and the tools necessary to stop abuse from being accepted in society in any form.”

Several anti-abortion protests have taken place in Scotland over the past year, including outside Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital while the Sandyford Clinic has also been targeted. 

This comes in the same year as the historic Roe v Wade ruling in the US which sought to remove access to abortion for women across the country. 

In early November, amid the US midterms, multiple states enshrined the right to abortion in their constitutions

Speaking to The National, Back Off Scotland’s co-founder Lucy Grieve said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have won Campaign of the Year alongside Gillian Mackay for our work to bring national, harassment-free ‘buffer zones’ to Scotland. 

“When we started this campaign as university undergraduates in 2020, we could never have foreseen the levels of support from the community as well as from within across the political spectrum. 

“We still have a way to go to achieve our aim but we’re more committed than ever to stopping harassment outside abortion facilities once and for all. 

“We would also like to pay tribute to the other organisations shortlisted in this category – Poverty Alliance and Care Home Relatives Scotland – it means the world to us to be recognised alongside these fantastic campaigns and we wish them the best.”

It is likely that legislation on the buffer zones will be introduced sometime in the New Year. 

Mackay added: “All around the world we are seeing attacks on the right to choose. Abortion rights are human rights, and we must do everything we can to protect and extend those rights.

“I am massively grateful to everyone who has supported my bill and particularly the many people who have shared their stories and experiences in an effort to ensure that nobody else is harassed or intimidated when accessing healthcare.”

This comes as Labour MSP Katy Clark has called on existing criminal law to be used against protesters intimidating and harassing women outside clinics. 

In a letter to Justice Secretary Keith Brown, she noted that no criminal charges were brought following a demonstration in June in which women were filmed and approached by protesters.

Clark, who represents West Scotland, said: “The repeated harassment of women using these facilities is utterly unacceptable yet charges such as breach of the peace are not being used.”

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The MSP has also written to Police Scotland and argued that existing law can be used until buffer zones can be rolled out across the country. 

“Scots law is very flexible in this area, but despite widespread condemnation, including by the First Minister herself, little is being done to prevent women from being harassed and intimidated when faced with such a traumatic choice.”

Although Clark said she was “in favour of the right to protest”, she added that this must be balanced with “the right to privacy and to attend sexual health clinics safely”.

She added: “I support calls for a specific buffer zone offence to be created, but in the meantime the Scottish Government and Police Scotland need to come forward with clear proposals of how these incidents will be addressed.”

Police Scotland has been contacted for comment.