Four and a half months after we sent a letter to Humza Yousaf requesting a meeting to make our case on assisted dying, we have received a reply. While it responds partially to one of our requests, it turns down our request for a meeting. And it doesn’t exactly fill us with confidence that Mr. Yousaf is making assisted dying a priority issue.
On 27 March, the day after his election as first minister, we wrote to the member for Glasgow Pollok asking that he meet with us and our co-campaigners on assisted dying. A member’s bill for assisted dying will shortly come before Holyrood, and we wanted the chance to put our case forward on what we believe is a humane, compassionate, and moderate proposal. We also asked that Mr. Yousaf ensure smooth introduction of assisted dying legislation if it passed first-stage parliamentary scrutiny.
We made clear that we understood assisted dying was partly a faith issue for the first minister. We did not expect a personal change of heart as he has previously told us he is “yet to be convinced” by the case for assisted dying. However, we wanted assurances that he had listened to assisted dying advocates.
We received a response on 10 August. It states that “if legislation is successful the Scottish Government will take the proper steps to ensure smooth commencement of the Act.” It does not agree to advanced planning following a successful first-stage vote. Mr. Yousaf also declines our offer of a meeting. The letter states: “the proposed Assisted Dying Bill is not a Scottish Government Bill but a Members Bill…..As such, the First Minister does not have the necessary detail to discuss these matters.”
This is a curious response as we would have used this meeting precisely to give Mr. Yousaf the “necessary detail” he refers to. We would also expect the first minister to have a sufficient understanding of the issues involved in the bill to meet with groups working on it. After all, this is a sensitive and important topic.
We will continue to work in good faith with Mr. Yousaf to put forward our position. But we are disappointed not to have the chance to discuss these vital matters for the future of healthcare and human rights in Scotland with the first minister.
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