MANY Inverclyde people suffering from asbestos-related illnesses could lose out on compensation because of proposed changes to the law, it’s feared.

The Scottish Government’s Court Reform Bill — which is currently being considered by parliament — would mean some cases would be downgraded from the Court of Session to sheriff courts, or a new specialist personal injury court.

That would mean claimants would not be automatically entitled to the service of an advocate, when insurance companies contesting claims would always hire one to fight their corner.

This could put claimants at a disadvantage, Greenock and Inverclyde MSP Duncan McNeil said today.

Mr McNeil said: “This is an unintentional outcome of this proposed legislation.

“Given the number of people in Inverclyde who suffer from illnesses related to exposure to asbestos, I am very concerned they could come up against an uneven playing field in court — and could lose out on compensation.” The MSP’s worries are shared by 60-year-old Neil Miller of Greenock, who has a condition known as pleural plaques, which he believes was caused by being exposed to asbestos through working in the shipyards and the building industry.

Mr Miller, who is married with a son and a daughter, found out three years ago that he had the scar tissue on the outside of the lungs after going into hospital for a triple by-pass operation following a heart attack.

He said: “The doctors saw the spots on my lungs.

“I would never have known I had pleural plaques.

“Thousands of people don’t know they have it.

“It hasn’t affected me yet but I’m worried that it could lead on to something more serious and that the planned change in the law would affect my chances of compensation.” Scottish Government justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has defended the proposed changes.

He says they are designed to ensure that cases are heard in the appropriate court to reduce unnecessary delays and disproportionate costs to all litigants.

Mr MacAskill said: “We do not believe this will result in asbestos cases where insurers have access to counsel and pursuers are denied access.

“We believe the reforms will provide benefits to all court users by ensuring cases are heard in an efficient and effective court system.”