NICOLA Sturgeon has given her formal backing to Gillian Mackay's buffer zones bill.

The former first minister – who Mackay said played a "key role" in supporting the legislation from an early stage – has signed the final proposal, which has already received the backing of a majority of MSPs from across all parties.

If passed, the bill will create 150m safe-access zones to stop protests taking place outside hospitals and other medical facilities that provide abortion services.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon adds her signature to the final proposalNicola Sturgeon adds her signature to the final proposal (Image: Scottish Greens)

Mackay said: “Nicola Sturgeon played a key role in encouraging and supporting my bill from an early stage.

"I am grateful for the personal interest that she took in it as first minister and for the support that she has shown me today.

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“The intimidation and harassment we have seen outside abortion service providers have no place in a progressive Scotland. I am determined that we end them for good, and look forward to working with Nicola to deliver my bill.”

While she was FM, Sturgeon organised several abortion summits which featured discussions about implementing buffer zones, with representatives from Police Scotland, Cosla, the NHS and campaign groups all present.

Sturgeon said: "Every woman should be able to access abortion services without fear of harassment or intimidation if they need to.

"It's that simple and, fundamentally, nobody should experience barriers to getting the healthcare they need.

"Gillian Mackay's work on this issue has been inspiring and I look forward to supporting Gillian in every way I can as her bill progresses to establish buffer zones as quickly as possible."

Mackay required the signatures of 18 MSPs to allow her to move forward with the legislation – a target she hit just 30 minutes after lodging the final proposal.

By the end of the next day, 56 signatures had been collected including those of 15 ministers.

Every Holyrood party leader, excluding Douglas Ross, has shown support for safe access zones. This includes First Minister Humza Yousaf, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and Scottish LibDem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, as well as Greens co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater.

A consultation Mackay ran on the bill – which received more than 12000 responses – showed a majority of participants in favour of the proposal.

Excluding responses from an anti-choice group – which all had to be considered separately and massively skewed results – almost 80% of people who responded were in favour of buffer zones.

It is anticipated the bill will be introduced to Parliament immediately after summer recess. Stage one of parliamentary scrutiny is likely to begin around October.