THE final proposal for the Buffer Zones Bill reached the quota for the number of MSPs needed to back it just 30 minutes after FMQs finished.

Scottish Greens MSP Gillian Mackay told The National that she was “very pleased and very grateful” to the MSPs who were so quick to show their support for the legislation.

Mackay’s Safe Access Zones Bill had thousands of consultation responses when it closed in August 2022, with the final proposal being lodged with the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

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The legislation has the backing of the Scottish Government and gathered signatures from SNP, Green, Labour, LibDem, and Tory MSPs.

It means that the bill can now move onto the next stage of the parliamentary process. 

It is understood that when the proposal was handed into the Chamber, it had 50 signatures from MSPs. With further signatures from Cabinet Secretaries and other Government ministers who have voiced support still to come, the final number is expected to exceed 70 signatures, potentially on the first day. 

Mackay needed the support of 18 MSPs but had surpassed that within 30 minutes of FMQs ending. MSPs were still signing as the afternoon went on, with some opting to do so digitally.

Speaking to The National after reaching the quota, Mackay said: “I’m very pleased and very grateful to colleagues who have so quickly come and supported the bill.

“I’m sure there will be a number more who will come and support it over the rest of the afternoon.”

Asked how long it took to reach the required number of signatures, Mackay said: “It was within half an hour of FMQs finishing that we reached the threshold, I’m so very pleased and very grateful.”

On the timeline for the first draft of the legislation to be published, Mackay said she “very much hopes” that the speed of getting the proposal quota met will make the process a bit faster.

“As I said before we’re looking at how efficient we can be in making sure that this doesn’t have any barriers to it.”

When the final proposal was published on Thursday morning, Women’s Health Minister Jenni Minto voiced her support for the legislation.

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Speaking to The National after Mackay managed to meet the threshold for signatures, Minto said she was said it highlighted the "incredibly powerful" cross-party support for the legislation.

"I was very pleased, I gave Gillian a hug. I think she has done a power of work, her team have worked really hard [to go through] 12,000 responses," she said.

The Women's Health Minister added that only Liam McArthur's consultation on assisted dying, another "emotive subject", had more responses. 

"My thanks go out to Gillian for leading with this so powerfully since she was elected in 2021," Minto added.

"But also her office as well for working so closely, and the team within the Scottish Government because although this is a Members’ Bill the Scottish Government has provided a lot of support for her.

"I think it shows, really reflects the commitment of the former first minister and current First Minister to ensuring we get good, robust legislation, which will support women and their families."

The SNP MSP added that she first became aware of the issue of anti-abortion protesters outside of clinics during a visit to Portland, United States, in 2000.

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Minto added: "I asked myself what on earth those people were doing standing outside that nice white building?

"I discovered what they were doing, protesting against women going in for abortions and also the staff that worked there, and I found that quite shocking.

"I find it very concerning that it has shifted across the Atlantic to Scotland."

The legislation aims to prevent abortion protests within 150 metres of hospitals and clinics, though the exact boundaries are yet to be determined.

The National: Jenni Minto.

It would not prevent other types of protest such as trade union picket lines.

The next stage will be formally introducing the bill to Holyrood before it is debated in committees and the chamber.

Texas-based 40 Days for Life are an evangelical group that are predominantly behind the protests outside of clinics. The religious organisation acts like a "franchise", and recruits people to take part in "prayer vigils" outside of clinics.

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Its co-founder and chief executive Shawn Carney told the BBC earlier this month he is concerned about the impact of the bill on freedom of speech.

“It’s not our responsibility of how someone else feels, nor is it the responsibility of any government or any business to control the feelings of another,” he said.

Carney did not rule out legal action if the bill is passed.

However, Back Off Scotland, the campaigners behind the call for buffer zones, have said that they "strongly believe" the legislation will survive any legal challenge.