“IT was a matter of life or death”.

The Scottish Parliament heard the words of a transplant patient, saved by a donation from a stranger he will never meet, as it voted overwhelmingly to pass the legislation that will introduce a soft opt-out organ donation system.

The Human Tissue Authorisation Bill was passed by 116 votes to three by MSPs as all parties supported the change.

The law is a victory for hundreds of transplant patients, and their families, waiting on a list, hoping a suitable organ will become available.

And it is the culmination of years of campaigning by the Evening Times, the British Heart Foundation and the BMA who have long advocated the change will save lives.

Joe Fitzpatrick, Public Health Minister, said he met with two transplant patients hours before the final vote on the Bill.

He said one of them, Claire, said: “Waking up I was like a new person.”

The other, Jamie, said: “It is an amazing gift. The gift of life.”

David Stewart, Labour MSP, told the Parliament of his friend Gary who had a transplant two years ago after a year on a waiting list.

Gary, he told MSPs, said: “It was a matter of life or death”.

MSPs praised Anne McTaggart, former Glasgow Labour MSP, who introduced a member's Bill which was rejected but led to the Scottish Government introducing its own bill and Mark Griffin MSP who told of his own family experience and pushed for the change.

Mr Griffin said: “Too many families like mine have lost a loved one waiting for an organ donor.

“I’m delighted for all of those families waiting now that the system has now been changed, after many blocked attempts from doing so.

“This Bill will save lives throughout the country and ensure we have an organ donor system which is fit for purpose.”

It is hoped the new law will encourage donation and bridge the gap between the number of people who say they support donation and the number of actual donations.

Scotland has the highest rate of families withholding consent in the UK.

The new law has been welcomed by health charities and medical organisations.

The BMA welcomed the law change stating it has the potential to help hundreds of people a year.

Dr Sue Robertson, who is a kidney specialist, said: “I believe that precious lives will be saved as a result of this landmark legislation.

“The BMA has been calling for an opt-out model of organ donation for 20 years and it is great to see that we are now closer to that position.

“At the end of March 2019, there were 581 people in Scotland waiting for life-saving transplants – with the introduction of this new law I am hopeful that more people than ever before will receive the organs they so desperately need.”

MSPs agreed on amendments that will see the Scottish Government carry out an annual awareness campaign to promote organ donation and to encourage people to state their wishes to the family.