By a Newsnet reporter
The UK Supreme Court has refused to uphold an appeal lodged by insurance companies against legislation brought in by the Scottish Parliament.
Today’s judgement ensures that Scots will still be allowed the right to claim compensation for an asbestos-related condition called pleural plaques.
The insurers had previously failed to overturn the new law at the Court of Session in Edinburgh. The companies then decided to take their case to the London based court by claiming the law infringed human rights legislation.
Pleural plaques, although in itself not a disease, is an indication of exposure to asbestos particles and, argue Scottish Ministers, can lead to more serious conditions such as lung cancer, mesothelioma or asbestosis.
The SNP Government and Scottish Parliament passed the legislation in order to allow compensation claims but the court challenges have meant cases have been put on hold or sidelined. The cost to insurance companies of the judgement is estimated to be between £7m and £9m.
The judgement will be a relief for Scottish sufferers of the condition, most of whom were exposed to the asbestos particles when working in heavy industry such as shipbuilding.
The Supreme Court’s decision has been welcomed by several MSPs.
SNP MSP for Anniesland Bill Kidd, who will join campaigners from Clydeside Action for Asbestos at Holyrood to welcome the decision, said:
“This is a victory for justice and compassion. The delay those with Pleural Plaques have had to face while insurers dragged this case through the courts must now end.
“The SNP has always been clear that this legislation was the right thing to do. There are just over 1000 people waiting to take their case to the courts and to secure the compensation they are entitled to.
“I now hope the insurance companies and other defenders including the UK Government will end their legal arguments and allow those who built our nation and its industry in what we now know were dangerous conditions to receive the compensation they are entitled to.”
West of Scotland MSP Stuart McMillan who supported the bill and worked with the campaigners added:
“I welcome the announcement from the Supreme Court that the insurance companies case to overturn the Damages Act has failed.
“This decision is an important victory for common sense and I now hope those who suffer from pleural plaques can receive the justice they so rightfully deserve.
“Clydeside Action on Asbestos deserves tremendous credit for their efforts campaigning for justice for the many sufferers of asbestos related conditions in Scotland.”
Labour’s Holyrood leader Iain Gray added: “This is tremendous news for all those in Scotland who have had to suffer the trauma of being told they have pleural plaques and will now after two and a half years of delay, at long last, be able to pursue the damages they are entitled to.
“This is absolutely the right judgement. It is a victory for common sense and reflects the fact that the move by insurance companies to overturn the will of the Scottish Parliament was both unfounded and unjust.
“Tribute must be paid to all those who have campaigned with such determination and tenacity to achieve this change in the law.”
The role of the Supreme Court in Scottish criminal cases has caused controversy and recent decisions have led to the conviction of a convicted murderer being overturned.
Last month an expert review group chaired by Lord McCluskey, described the role of the Supreme Court as “constitutionally problematic” and said that it threatened the independence of Scots law.