Comment: voices of conscience

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Equal marriage, assisted suicide and organ donation: a treble of votes with one past and two upcoming in the Scottish Parliament.

In America they would be called ‘moral issues’ but in the United Kingdom we prefer to think of them as ‘votes of conscience’.

Issues on which no MSP will be required to abide by a Party whip, nor should they be bound by spurious assertions from the usual opinion takers.

Individually we must consider, reflect and decide.

Introduced by the late and much missed Margo Macdonald, the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill seeks to legalise assisted suicide in certain limited circumstances. At present I may be the sole Scottish Conservative MSP who shall be voting for it. After all I am a co-sponsor of the Bill alongside Mary Fee and Patrick Harvie MSP.

Many will disagree with my support for this legislation, yet for me it is about allowing Scots the choice to decide how they wish to end their life.

It is the choice that is important.

I actually don’t know how I will feel in old age if I am struck down by some sort of disease that steals the dignity away from far too many people’s lives. It’s not really relevant.

What I do know is that I want that choice and will be voting to allow fellow Scots the same choice.

In the final analysis, I support the view that it all “right to life, not a duty to live”.

Wales has adopted an opt out system for organ donation and a similar idea has been mooted for Scotland.

Given everything else that has happened in the health service and elsewhere in life in relation to the security and effectiveness of information systems, I would prefer to benefit from the experience of Wales before wishing to adopt such a system next.

I remain particularly uncomfortable with and concerned by the effect on public opinion if it came to be shown that organs were being removed from people who had sought not to be part of that process but whose information had been incorrectly processed.

That would undermine and damage public confidence, which, as members have pointed out, is extremely high and in favour of the principle of organ donation.

I recognise that opinions on these issues are more likely than not divided, and I welcome alternative views to those I am articulating here.

It would be useful to try and establish what the balance of opinion in the area actually is.

Having sketched out my views I would appreciate understanding your views on assisted suicide and organ donation considering the far reaching consequences both would have for Scotland.

I can be contacted at