Thursday 12 November 2015

Abortion law in Scotland must be a matter for Holyrood, not Westminster

The Labour Party shrugged its shoulders at the defeat of their amendment to devolve tax credits to Holyrood, but have now decided to use the House Of Lords to try and stop the devolution of abortion law. Please don't ask me what is going through their little minds - the party seems to be having another one of those head up arsehole moments.

As things stand the whole of Great Britain is covered by the 1967 Abortion Act, which in theory allows abortions up to 24 weeks. I say in theory because in Scotland the de facto limit has always been 18 weeks.

The reason for this is that Ground C of the 1967 act which states that a woman's mental health will suffer if she continues with the pregnancy is not accepted as providing sufficient grounds for a late abortion in Scotland. Thus a pregnant woman who has reached 18 weeks gestation either has to have the child or go to England to abort it.

Looking at the line put out by the Labour figures who want to keep abortion law firmly under Westminster's control it seems to me as if they do not actually know that the two countries already differ when it comes to abortion provision. Their argument is thus confused and confusing, and seems to boil down to the fact that they that they genuinely believe that democracy just means people voting for a set of policies that have been created at elite level in Westminster.

Politics is about having the power to allocate resources. That means that in every political debate there are going to be winners and losers. In an ideal world, such  compromises  as are necessary will be made to ensure that the losers walk away with something, and leave them hoping for better luck next time.

The whole of the public health political arena has already been handed over to Holyrood, save that of abortion law. It is an intellectually incoherent anomaly that Labour, for perverse reasons of its own, wants to keep this one issue under Westminster's wing.

All of this leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, suggesting as it does that Labour really does not trust the northern provincials to run things properly.

Labour needs to be aware of that if it wants to save itself in Holyrood from the near extinction that befell it in Westminster, then those arrogant, elitist attitudes need to be dropped.

Hopefully, the Scotland Bill will pass the House Of Lords unchanged, but if it doesn't then the fact that Labour has amended the bill will help ensure that the party is wiped out at next year's Scottish General Election.

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