The Scottish Parliament has voted in favour of a Bill that means Scotland will be the first part of the UK to become completely smoke free in all enclosed public places.

The new law will come into force on March 26, 2006, First Minister Jack McConnell announced after MSPs voted by a majority of 97 to 17 with one abstention to pass new public health legislation that aims to save thousands of lives.

He said the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill would improve the nation's health and significantly cut rates of smoking-related disease.

Mr McConnell continued: "Today is a historic day for Scotland. This legislation is one of the most important decisions that has been made since devolution. It is a decision that shows that we are determined to change Scotland for the better.

"March 26, 2006, will not just be the first day of summer, it will be the first day of a new future for our country. A healthier future. A future where Scots live longer, families are less likely to be touched by tragedy and our young people are fitter and better prepared to make the most of their ambitions. It is a future that we can all look forward to."

Health Minister Andy Kerr said: "By doing this we will save thousands of lives and help keep families together for longer. Smoking has wreaked a catastrophic toll on Scotland's people. Each year 13,000 Scots still die before their time as a result. This is our 35 a day habit and today's vote means we really will start to kick it.

"We know that that 70% of Scots don't smoke and of those who do 70% want to give up. Stubbing out smoking is the right decision for the smoker, their friends and their families. I know, however, that it can also be a hard one - with taking the first step often the most difficult part. Having services out in the community - in places where people live and work will make that step easier.

"That is why we announced an additional £11 million earlier this year to support people who want to kick the habit."

Kerr concluded: "A poll released earlier this week shows widespread public support for what we're doing and I am pleased to see that the weight of opinion has been reflected in the Scottish Parliament today."

The Bill also contains a range of other measures which will improve health and access to healthcare across the country including free eye and dental checks for all.