ASBESTOS campaigners have reacted with anger at court changes they feel downgrades their compensation claims.

The Court Reform Bill, passed at Holyrood, will move personal injury claims from the highest court, the Court of Session, to a Sheriff Court or new Personal Injury Court.

Campaigners and people suffering from asbestos-related illnesses said they feel betrayed, with some calling on the Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, to resign.

A group of more than two dozen from Clydeside Action on Asbestos walked out of the Scottish Parliament in disgust as MSPs rejected an amendment that would have guaranteed their cases would be heard in the Court of Session.

They feel insurance companies are the winners and some fear the legal costs associated with claims could wipe out any compensation they are awarded.

Phyllis Craig, chairwoman of Clydeside Action on Asbestos, said: "It is appalling what has happened. People are so angry. This means the insurers win but the people with the asbestosis lose.

"We wanted a guarantee that all asbestos cases remain in the Court of Session.

"Kenny MacAskill met us. We were informed last week he would seek asbestosis cases to remain in the highest court."

Mr MacAskill later rejected a Labour amendment to exempt asbestos cases from being heard in the sheriff court.

He repeated comments by the Justice committee Convener, Christine Grahame, who, according to Mr MacAskill, said: "If we take one group of people and say it's special, another will come along and say theirs is special too".

Mr MacAskill said: "I fully acknowledge asbestos can be complex cases" and he said "complex cases and any appeals will be heard at the Court of Session, but they would be for the courts to decide on an individual basis."

Cases with claims under £100,000 will be sent to the sheriff court.

Asbestos victims were outraged following the vote.

John Brown, from West Calder, who worked in Clydeside yards, said: "The threshold will affect 90% of our claimants, who will be sent to the sheriff Court. It's ridiculous. MacAskill should resign."

Ron Marsh, from Stonehaven, was exposed to asbestos when he worked in the Cowlairs industrial area of Glasgow decades ago.

He said "Being diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness is devastating. My message for our justice secretary is very simple.

"Mr MacAskill, please do not allow court reform to hand a gift to the insurance industry, who behave in a shameful way towards asbestos victims and their loved ones.

"Asbestos sufferers expect you and your Government to be on their side"

Gordon Walker, who has had his claim settled, said he feared for others.

He said: "All we are looking for is a level playing field. Kenny MacAskill has gone back on his word to us.

"When a case goes to the Court of Session, insurance firms have to pay advocate fees. Now deductions will come from damages and could leave people with northing."