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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 September 2007, 13:49 GMT 14:49 UK
Salmond seeks abortion law review
Alex Salmond
Mr Salmond will not force the issue with Westminster
First Minister Alex Salmond has backed the setting up of an independent commission to examine abortion laws.

He personally supports a reduction in the time limit for terminations from 24 to 20 weeks.

The commission could look at whether the reserved issue of abortion should be devolved to Scotland.

However, there are currently no plans for such a group, and UK ministers have argued that the same laws should be applied in both England and Scotland.

Any move to make changes would not happen without cross-party consensus.

The Scottish Government stressed that it would not be forcing the issue of abortion with Westminster.

He has no interest in such a sensitive issue becoming an arm wrestle between Holyrood and Westminster
First minister's spokesman

A spokesman for Mr Salmond said that using a commission to examine abortion laws was the first minister's personal view.

Mr Salmond has expressed his disappointment with the level of debate on abortion at Westminster on the last two occasions it came up, claiming the conclusion did not necessarily reflect what people were trying to vote for.

"A commission would also reflect the consensual approach we are taking to government, and developing the debate about the powers of the parliament," said the spokesman.

"The opposition parties are also discussing which further powers should be devolved from Westminster to Holyrood, and they may also wish to consider the matter."

Different policies

But the first minister has recognised the difficulties of moving forward with a commission in Scotland, given that abortion is reserved to Westminster.

The spokesman added: "He has no interest in such a sensitive issue becoming an arm wrestle between Holyrood and Westminster, and there are no current plans for such an initiative."

The UK Government has said it would be wrong for different policies to apply north and south of the border on the issue.

Scotland Office minister David Cairns said he believed the devolution settlement had broadly got the balance right between reserved and devolved issues.

He told BBC Scotland's Politics Show: "It's up to those who would advocate a fundamental change to come forward and make that case.

"That hasn't happened in this instance."

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