The Scottish Executive was urged yesterday to fast-track legislation which would finally allow peace of mind - and better compensation - for the families of those who suffer from asbestos-related disease.
The plea came from John Greig, a former train repairer who is dying from mesothelioma, the most unpleasant form of the disease. He urged ministers to ensure hundreds of people suffering such illnesses did not have to face the same hideous choice as he does.
Mr Greig can expect courts to personally award him compensation of £55,000. However, if he accepts that, it will prevent Mary, his wife, and grown-up son, Graham, from receiving compensation after his death. They could expect to win £93,000 - but only on condition he was not alive to benefit from it.
Around 1200 Scots at any one time face a death related to industrial use of asbestos. Two-thirds have mesothelioma. According to campaigners for those who worked in Clydeside shipyards and other industries where they were exposed to asbestos, the scale of the problem will rise tenfold in the next 10 years. By the projected peak in 2015, there could be 7500 people dying of mesothelioma each year in Scotland.
By 2030, it is estimated 250,000 people across Europe will have died from a disease that takes 30 to 40 years to strike, then leaves only six to 18 months of painful suffering. Clydeside is one of Europe's hotspots for the disease.
Mr Greig, 74, worked as a train repairer in the Springburn works in Glasgow from 1946 to 1972, before moving to West Lothian, where he worked at the Leyland works in Bathgate, until retiring in 1986.
He recalls wearing only overalls in the railway yard when stripping out asbestos and bagging it. He later had to wear a protective nylon suit and perspex helmet, scrubbing down and changing completely after finishing but, by then, it was too late. "I was always rather chesty and then, last August, they found fluid on my lungs," said Mr Greig. "When they took a biopsy, they diagnosed me with mesothelioma."
It was only then that he learned of his dilemma. "This is no choice," he said yesterday. "People with this horrendous illness have enough to cope with, without having to make such a decision."
He has opted to accept compensation before his death, in the hope the law will change and his wife can then claim.
Yesterday, Mr Greig was at Holyrood to highlight the case for a change to the law. Clydeside campaigners are pressing for a fast-track legislation, which they say could be done in as little as six months. They have offered a fully drafted bill, saying it need only be short and simple to amend the 1976 compensation legislation.
Bob Dickie, chairman of Clydebank Asbestos Group, said: "Compensation awarded to a sufferer can mean peace of mind, allow them to improve their quality of life and give a sense their employer's negligence has been recognised."