A member's bill to introduce a "soft opt-out" organ donation system in Scotland has fallen at stage 1 in the Scottish Parliament, after a minister promised to prioritise further work in the next Parliament on methods to increase organ donation and transplantation, if the present Government is returned to power.

Members from each of the main parties voted opposite ways as the chamber split 59-56 in a decision to accept the Government's amendment expressing serious concerns about the practical impact of the bill, introduced by Labour MSP Anne McTaggart, and calling on ministers to take early action after the May election, learning from the experiences of Wales which is introducing a similar system. The chamber then voted 65-48 for the amended motion disagreeing to the general principles of the bill.

Ms McTaggart was critical of the Government's line that there was not enough time left in the session to amend the bill, saying the Government had tabled 200 amendments to its own Land Reform Bill.

Minister for Public Health Maureen Watt, said that while ministers were "very supportive" of measures to increase organ availability, the bill was "seriously flawed and could actually harm organ donation".

She commented: "We have concerns that the proposals around authorised investigating persons (AIPs) and proxies will add significant complexity into the donation pathway, and may lead to potential donors being lost.

“We also have concerns that provisions in relation to adults with incapacity may make it difficult for such adults, or their relatives, to opt-out, leaving them ‘locked in’ to donation.

“However, this bill has helped to raise the profile of the debate about how we can increase the number of organ donors – bringing these important issues to the fore. What is clear is that both the public and MSPs share a desire to look again at what more can be done to help the hundreds of people that are waiting for a life-saving transplant in Scotland each year."

Ms Watt added that the proposed consultation would take a detailed look at a range of issues concerning the best methods of increasing organ donation, including soft opt-out, and what action the Scottish Government should take next to increase the availability of organs.