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‘Tide turning’ in favour of assisted suicide, says MSP bidding to change law

Liam McArthur said he believed the ‘tide is turning’ in favour of assisted suicide (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)
Liam McArthur said he believed the ‘tide is turning’ in favour of assisted suicide (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

The “tide is turning” in favour of assisted suicide, the MSP attempting to change the law at Holyrood has insisted.

Liam McArthur said he now had “the sense that the political mood has finally caught up with where the public mood has been” on the controversial issue.

He spoke out at an event in the Scottish Parliament which took place exactly a year after he announced plans to bring forward a member’s Bill.

A consultation exercise has been carried out, with the Liberal Democrat MSP saying he hoped to formally introduce a Bill early next year.

Mr McArthur wants to introduced assisted dying as a choice for adults who are both terminally ill and mentally competent, and insists there are strong safeguards built into his proposed Assisted Dying Scotland Bill.

However, Mr McArthur accepted “this issue is one that divides opinion and gives rise to strong emotions on both sides”.

He pledged to “take a pragmatic approach, listening to those who have concerns or questions as well as those who are strongly supportive”.

But speaking about assisted suicide, he said: “I firmly believe that the political tide is now turning.

“We need to get the detail right, of course, but I get the sense that the political mood has finally caught up with where the public mood has been for some time and that the circumstances are right for a change in the law that is long overdue, keenly anticipated and so desperately needed.”

Mr McArthur’s Bill would be the third to be debated at Holyrood, with unsuccessful attempts to change the law having previously been spearheaded by independent MSP, Margo MacDonald, and then by Green, Patrick Harvie.

The Lib Dem said there had been an “overwhelming response” to the public consultation on his proposal.

“The level of interest has surpassed anything we have seen for a Members Bill in the lifetime of this Scottish Parliament,” he added.

Former independent MSP Dennis Canavan said he did not believe assisted suicide was necessary for people to ‘die in dignity’ (Andrew Milligan/PA)

A summary of the consultation responses is expected to be published when Holyrood returns after the summer recess – with Mr McArthur insisting changing the law to permit assisted dying is “an opportunity that must be grasped”.

He stated: “We have seen how the law has been safely and successfully changed in states and nations around the world.

“For me, this is the next great liberal reform. In the interests of choice, dignity and compassion, the debate cannot be about whether, but rather how, we change the law here in Scotland.”

His comments come after former independent MSP Dennis Canavan spoke out against plans to legalise assisted suicide.

Mr Canavan, who has suffered the deaths of four of his children, including three from terminal illnesses, said that they “died in dignity”.

The former MSP insisted: “I do not accept that the option of assisted suicide is necessary to ensure dignity in death.”