SCOTTISH health boards could be given the power to re-claim the cost of treating people from killer conditions caused by exposure to asbestos.

As reported in later editions of yesterday's Evening Times, a new bill was launched yesterday allowing the NHS to claw back the costs of caring for people who contracted industrial diseases like fatal mesothelioma, including those who worked on the Clyde shipyards.

The Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases (Scotland) Bill is the culmination of years of campaigning by Clydeside Action on Asbestos and Nationalist West of Scotland MSP Stuart McMillan.

More than £20million a year is thought to be spent by NHS Scotland diagnosing and treating people suffering from the effects of asbestos exposure - around £60,000 per patient. Campaigners say the number of people receiving treatment is continuing to increase.

The bill will enable the NHS and palliative care services to re-coup those costs from insurance companies who have already settled civil claims with victims. The costs of treatment will be calculated from initial diagnosis.

There is currently provision in Scots law for the NHS to claim from insurers the costs of treating people involved in accidents but no recovery system exits for those who have contracted industrial diseases.

The new law could open up insurance claims for other work-related conditions.

Phyllis Craig, chairwoman of Clydeside Action on Asbestos, said: "We are urging the Scottish Parliament to address this issue as a priority.

"The responsibility for meeting these costs rests with the employers who exposed their employees to asbestos. It is only just that the employers have to meet the costs of care that result from their negligence."