MAJOR charities pledged to work with the government to deliver a “world-class” transplant system after a historic change in Scotland’s donor laws was announced.

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell pledged to take forward legislation to introduce an opt-out system, whereby people are assumed to be donors unless they have registered an objection.

There was praise for the Evening Times, which has led a five-year campaign calling for the life-saving change, which has already seen promising results in Wales since it was introduced in December 2015.

Like the Welsh system, the wishes of families and next of kin will continue to be respected, so removal of organs would not go ahead without their support, an element that charities argued was crucial to the proposal winning public support.

Scotland currently has the highest proportion of donors of any country in the UK, with 25.5 donors per million people in 2016/17.

However more than half of the population is not on the register, despite overwhelming public support for organ donation and 500 people are currently waiting for a transplant.

It is hoped that an automatic register will help address this discrepancy.

Yvonne Hughes, Public Affairs Manager for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust Scotland said: “Thanks to the Evening Times’ Opt for Life campaign, Scotland will move to a system of soft opt out for organ donation.”

Dr Peter Bennie, Chair of BMA Scotland, said: “The Evening Times should be congratulated for its excellent campaign on this issue and for supporting organisations like the BMA in our call for the government to bring forward this legislation.“

"Organ transplantation is an area that has seen amazing medical achievements but has not yet reached its full life-saving and life-transforming potential.

“The whole transplant community has worked tremendously hard to increase donation rates but we believe that more can be done. As doctors it’s difficult to see our patients suffering and dying when their lives could be saved or dramatically improved by a transplant.

“We believe that genuine choice over organ donation can be facilitated through a soft opt-out system. If properly implemented, with adequate resources and staff, and backed up by a high profile campaign, an opt-out system could save or transform peoples’ lives. We look forward to contributing to this important legislation."

James Cant, Director at British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland, said the decision would bring “new hope” to patients waiting for a transplant.

The charity recognised the Evening Times’ campaigning work with an award, two years ago.

Mr Cant said: “The BHF has actively supported the introduction of a soft opt out system across the UK as a way to increase organ donation rates.

“Currently the need for organs vastly outstrips the number donated: throughout the UK, three people a day die in need of a transplant.

“Today’s announcement builds on the evidence basis that has emerged over many decades and brings Scotland in line with many other countries that already operate an opt-out system.

“This is a highly positive move but we recognise that continued investment in infrastructure and staff training is needed to ensure that Scotland has a world leading organ donation system.

“BHF Scotland will work with and support Scottish Government in the delivery of this legislation.”

Michael Hanlon, who is recovering from a heart transplant, backed our campaign as he waited for donor on the critical list in hospital.

He said: “It’s only now that I realise how bad I was before the transplant.

“You feel as if something isn’t right but the things that’s not right is that is that you are feeling good after feeling so bad for so long.

“The last four weeks before the transplant, I could feel myself going downhill.

“It was touch and go towards the end.

“The team said to me, we could see your heart deteriorating but you were so positive, we didn’t want to give you bad news and you would just accept that.

“It’s absolutely fantastic news. I’m a great believer in it. The more awareness that is out there, the better.”