GILLIAN Mackay has said she will be looking to speed up progress on her Safe Access Zones Bill after "sickening" harassment of patients and staff at a Glasgow clinic offering abortions.

The Green MSP has insisted intimidation from protesters at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital must be brought to an end.

Mackay said the lantern-wielding anti-choice demonstrators seen there at the weekend - of which there were more than 100 - had "made the case for speeeding up introduction of buffer zones" and that she would be speaking with colleagues at the Scottish Parlaiment with a view to progresssing the bill at "the earliest opportunity".

The protest on Sunday was part of the international 40 Days for Life campaign which has encompassed almost the entirety of Lent.

The organisation aims to “end abortion locally through prayer and fasting, community outreach, and a peaceful all-day vigil in front of abortion businesses”.

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Mackay told The National: “If they thought this would help their cruel US imported ideology then it has backfired spectacularly.

"All they have done is make the case absolutely for speeding up the introduction of safe access zones.

“They have galvanised support around my bill with a flood of messages to my office in the past 24-hrs from people asking what help they can offer to speed up its introduction. 

“This is not about freedom of speech, this is absolutely about protecting the rights of women to choose, to be protected and to feel safe when accessing healthcare. It is about supporting staff and clinicians to do their job without fear.

“The 40 Days doctrine is at odds with that, it surely borders on criminality and such displays must be brought to an end. I hope it can be the last time people are forced to endure such repugnant scenes.

“I will be speaking with colleagues across the Scottish Parliament and with the Scottish Government with a view to progressing my bill at the earliest opportunity to ensure safe access zones are introduced as soon as possible.”

Mackay's bill would make it illegal for anti-choice protesters to demonstrate within 150m of an abortion clinic. She said earlier this year she was hoping to introduce the bill by summer. 

Pro-choice activists sought to counter protest the action at the weekend by putting up hundreds of signs outside the hospital in support of woman seeking healthcare.

Greg Irwin, a consultant paediatric radiologist at the Royal Hospital for Children who previously spoke to The National about the protests, tweeted an image on Sunday afternoon and said: "The anti abortion protests at QEUH are currently dwarfed by over a hundred posters in support of women’s right to choose abortion healthcare."

He later tweeted that he had spoken "too soon" too as anti-abortion protesters began to show up in bigger numbers. 

Back Off Scotland, a group which campaigns for anti-choice protests to be banned outside abortion clinics, condemmed the action and said progress on buffer zone legislation "must be fast tracked".