SCOTTISH Labour have remained silent after Keir Starmer pledged to legalise assisted dying – a policy Anas Sarwar does not support.

Speaking to ITV, the UK Labour leader said he would act to legalise the controversial practice in the first parliamentary term if he wins the next General Election.

In a phone call with broadcaster and campaigner Esther Rantzen – who has expressed her own wish for an assisted death – Starmer said he was “personally committed” to a change in the law.

It is currently illegal to help someone take their own life in the UK, although there is a proposed bill at Holyrood to legalise it in Scotland.

“I’m personally in favour of changing the law," Starmer told Rantzen. “I think we need to make time. We will make the commitment. Esther, I can give you that commitment right now.”

When pressed by ITV News on whether he’d like a vote to take place within the next parliament, Starmer replied: “Oh yes, definitely.

“I think Esther would agree with this. For people who are going through this or are likely to go through it in the next few months or years, this matters hugely and delay just prolongs the agony.”

Starmer’s pledge is tricky for Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar, who has previously opposed the policy.

In 2023, he told The Scotsman: “I'm yet to be persuaded on the legislation. I don't instinctively support [it].”

READ MORE: 'Historic vote' sees Isle of Man on path to be first in UK to legalise assisted dying

Sarwar was specifically talking about LibDem MSP Liam McArthur’s proposed Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill.

The Scottish Labour MSP said he imagined the issue would not be whipped along party lines but instead would be a free vote when it comes to parliament.

So far, six other Labour MSPs, including frontbenchers, have supported McArthur’s bill: Monica Lennon, Daniel Johnson, Paul Sweeney, Martin Whitfield, Katy Clark, and Carol Mochan.

Starmer has suggested that he would also give his MPs a free vote on the issue.

The last time MPs at Westminster voted on a legalising assisted suicide was in 2015, with the bill defeated by two votes to one.

Scottish Labour did not respond to The National’s request for comment.

SNP MSP Elena Whitham, who has spoken previously about her support for the assisted dying bill, said: “As a humanist, it has always been clear to me that people deserve agency and choice at the end of their life when terminal illness is diagnosed and it is welcome that we are seeing debate open up at Holyrood and Westminster on assisted dying.

“I witnessed the unbearable agony of my mother hastening her death from terminal lung cancer by stopping all food and drink, and I fully support a change in the law to allow any one of us to be able to leave this world on our own terms with the support of our trusted health service should we face a terminal diagnosis.

“The people of Scotland believe this too with polling consistently showing overwhelming support for assisted dying and it is only right and proper that our parliaments debate this subject again.”

Earlier this week, ITV reported an Opinium poll, conducted on behalf of the pro-assisted dying campaign group Dignity in Dying, found that 74% of the British public support a law change, while 14% oppose it.

Whitham added: “I look forward to supporting Liam McArthur’s members bill on the matter when he introduces it at Holyrood and I hope if Starmer leads the next UK Government, he is true to his word and facilitates a free and open debate down the road.”