Page last updated at 14:37 GMT, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

End-of-life bill decision 'wrong'

Margot MacDonald
Margo MacDonald has introduced the bill to the Scottish Parliament

The Scottish government has branded as "wrong" a move to set up a special Holyrood committee to look at proposals to legalise assisted suicide.

MSP Margo MacDonald's End-of-Life Assistance Bill would allow terminally ill people to seek help to die.

The bill had been expected to go before the health committee, but Holyrood's business bureau decided it should be considered by a separate committee.

Ms MacDonald described the move as "a piece of nonsense".

It is understood the bureau, comprising the main political parties, made its decision by voting 3-1 against the wishes of Parliament Minister Bruce Crawford.

Ms MacDonald expressed concern the move was made to affect the membership of any ad-hoc committee established to look at the government's forthcoming independence referendum bill.

We felt we could have referred it to the health committee, but it's not just a health issue
Mike Rumbles
Lib Dem chief whip

A spokesman for Mr Crawford said it was "the wrong decision", adding: "It sets an unfortunate precedent.

"This bill deal with matters of conscience and should be dealt with by the normal subject committee," he said.

Ms MacDonald, who has Parkinson's disease, told BBC Scotland the membership of the cross-party health committee had been chosen prior to her bill being introduced and included two doctors, who had each come down on either side of the argument.

She said: "When I asked why was it not going to the health committee, I was told it's got morality in it.

"Every time time we cast a vote in here there should be morality in it - so that's a spurious reason."

The health committee has also expressed concern at the bureau's move.

Liberal Democrat chief whip Mike Rumbles, who sits on the bureau, said: "This is the first occasion all MSPs in the Scottish Parliament will have a free vote and that's because all the parties recognise this is going to be an issue of ethics and morals, rather than anything else.

"We felt we could have referred it to the health committee, but it's not just a health issue."

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