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North East Fife among strongest areas of support for assisted dying

See the level of support in your area - as MSP Liam McArthur explains why he thinks Scotland is ready to change the law in our exclusive interview.

Liam McArthur wants to make assisted dying legal. Image: Jack Norquoy.
Liam McArthur wants to make assisted dying legal. Image: Jack Norquoy.

Parts of Fife are among the most supportive regions in Scotland for legalised assisted dying.

Polling shows a clear majority of the country – including in Dundee, Angus and Perthshire – back the proposals being lodged at the Scottish Parliament today.

It comes as Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur claims the ban on assisted dying is “unsustainable”, and forces people to make journeys to countries such as Switzerland for help.

Speaking to The Courier’s political podcast, The Stooshie, he said public opinion was on his side.

‘The ban is unsustainable’

“Poll after poll has suggested an overwhelming level of support for a change in the law,” he told us.

“The ban on assisted dying is unsustainable. We must do better.”

The biggest ever poll on the topic, carried out by Opinium Research, found every single Holyrood constituency in Scotland is in favour of changing the law.

North East Fife, where four in every five respondents backed assisted dying, was one of the most supportive areas.

Support for assisted dying was strong in areas of Fife such as Dunfermline. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

At least 78% of those polled in constituencies which take in Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes all want to see the policy given the green light as well.

Across Dundee, support for overhauling the law stood at around 76%.

In Holyrood’s two Perthshire seats, that figure stood just slightly higher at 77%.

It was 77% in Angus South and 78% in Angus North and Mearns.

First Minister Humza Yousaf’s Glasgow Pollok patch – where 67% backed the proposals – was the second least supportive across the country.

First Minister Humza Yousaf. Image: PA
Humza Yousaf’s constituency was one of the least supportive. Image: PA.

Previous attempts to pass assisted dying in Holyrood failed partially due to concerns safeguards were not strong enough to prevent the law being exploited.

The model put forward by Mr McArthur would only allow those suffering from a terminal illness who are of sound mind to opt for assisted dying.

“The proposals I’m bringing forward this time are highly safeguarded,” he said. “The eligibility criteria are as restricted as they possibly could be.”

But given the proposals have been voted down twice before, what does Mr McArthur think has changed now?

‘Public attitudes are clear’

“Around two-thirds of the MSPs who are currently in the Scottish Parliament weren’t around in 2015, and haven’t had a chance to debate this issue or vote on it,” he said.

He added: “I think that the public attitudes to this are pretty clear. It’s taken a bit of time for the political mood to catch up.

“From conversations I’ve had with colleagues, many of them have their own personal stories, and that’s forming the way they look at this issue.”

Opponents to assisted dying still fear the laws could be exploited to coerce vulnerable older people into ending their lives prematurely.

Many religious groups have always opposed the proposals.

Among political leaders, Mr Yousaf has doubts over the policy while Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar is “yet to be convinced”.

‘Nothing has changed’

Better Way, a campaign group opposed to the plans, claimed nothing had changed since the policy was last put in front of MSPs.

Spokesperson Dr Miro Griffiths said: “This practice has been debated at length and rejected at both Holyrood and Westminster because of overwhelming evidence of its dangers. Nothing has changed since past debates.”

Campaigners in favour say the latest polling is a clear indication the public want change.

Ally Thomson, director of Dignity in Dying, said: “In every constituency and region in Scotland there is an unshakeable majority of support for an assisted dying law, with tight safeguards that would benefit and protect dying people.”

Campaigners say assisted dying laws are needed now. Image: Shutterstock.

Fraser Sutherland, of Humanist Society Scotland, said: “Many compassionate alternatives have proved effective overseas, and it’s time for the same humanity to be extended to people in Scotland.”

Scots facing certain death who want to end their own life in Switzerland often face costs of £15,000.

Polling found 55% of respondents would consider making the trip if they had a terminal illness.

But 57% of those surveyed said they would be unable to afford it.

Fife woman travelled to Switzerland

Earlier this month, Arbroath man Alan Scott told us how his wife Clare Reaney travelled from Fife to Switzerland so she could die in 2021.

Alan said he believes his wife could have lived for another year if the same option had been available to her in Scotland.

Alan Scott with his late wife Clare Reaney.

Mr McArthur said he was “grateful” to all those who have come forward to tell their stories and hope a change in the law can prevent similar cases in future.

The Lib Dem MSP said assisted dying laws would have allowed the couple to spend more time together instead of “having to constantly think about getting to Switzerland”

He added: “These cases illustrate very well the unsustainability of the current ban on assisted dying.”

You can listen to our full interview with Liam McArthur on our politics podcast, The Stooshie, here.