Family values campaigners and the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland reacted angrily to the proposed pilot scheme for a walk-in clinic. Valerie Richies, of Family and Youth Concern, said parents would be appalled that Boots, "thought of as an eminently sensible organisation", should be sending the signal to children: "Go out and have sex."
"This is abuse of children, not family planning," she said.
The scheme marks the first time in Britain family planning has been taken out of doctors' surgeries or specialist clinics and into a high street store. The twice-weekly clinic will be run in a private room at Boots' store in Glasgow's St Enoch's Centre, a busy shopping precinct. The service will be widely advertised in nightclubs, bars and university unions and there will also be an information point on the shop floor.
Both Boots and the Greater Glasgow Community and Mental Health Services NHS Trust strenuously deny that the move would encourage under-age sex. By making advice more accessible, they say they hope to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies. Since 1993, the number of pregnancies among 13 to 19-year-olds in Greater Glasgow has fallen from 1,916 to 1,724 per year. However, the number of 13 to 15-year-olds who became pregnant increased from 102 to 169.
Anne Marie McKay, director of the Family Planning Association Scotland, said young people who were sexually active or thinking about having sex often felt "intimidated" by ordinary services. There is no minimum age for those seeking advice, but the decision on whether to give out contraceptives will be for the doctor.
A trust spokeswoman said: "Individual clinicians have to take a decision on the maturity of the person they are seeing. It is certainly not pills on demand, however young."
Early findings from a study by the research unit for health and behavioural change at the University of Edinburgh show 31 per cent of 15-year-old boys in Scotland have had sex, compared with 37 per cent in 1994. The figure for girls remained constant at 36 per cent.
The survey of 2,500 Scottish 15-year-olds indicated school sex education was effective in providing information about the threat of Aids and other sexually transmitted infections but embarrassment was still stifling conversation at home about sex and relationships.
The initiative was announced on the same day as a survey showing teenagers in Britain fear pregnancy more than catching HIV and see condoms as a nuisance. Widespread ignorance about sexually transmitted diseases means that one in six young people thought wrongly that treatment for carriers of the Aids virus could stop them being infectious.
A survey by the Brook Advisory Centres, the sex advice charity, found that teenage boys in particular were promiscuous and willing to take risks.Reuse content