SCOTLAND’S health secretary has called on the UK Government to stop “dragging its heels” over bureaucratic delays preventing increased financial help being given to victims of the NHS infected blood scandal north of the border.

Shona Robison said despite repeated calls, Westminster has failed to take steps to allow the Scottish Government to process payments “with immediate effect” in Scotland.

Holyrood announced earlier this year that those who had been infected with HIV and hepatitis C from contaminated blood in the 1970s and 80s – around 3,000 Scots - would be entitled to extra money.

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But Robison said they were dependent on the UK Government to allow existing UK-wide compensation schemes to process the payouts quickly, until a separate Scottish system can be set up next year.

She said: “We’re ready to go with a new Scottish payment system next year, but we could start sooner with payments in Scotland if the UK Government would only accede to our request for use of their existing schemes.

“The UK Government must stop dragging its heels. They have the opportunity to get this moving and send a clear signal to those who have been affected, many of whom are desperate to receive the money they are entitled to, and these delays are totally unacceptable."

Dan Farthing-Sykes, chief executive officer of charity Haemophilia Scotland, said there were families across Scotland who were in desperate need of the new payments.

He said: “Some are only just keeping their head above water. The stress and anxiety caused by these delays is putting additional strain on families who may be in the final months before a bereavement.

“It is extremely frustrating to know that the money has been assigned by the Scottish Government for months but can't be paid to those who need it because of this bureaucratic wrangling.

“This Department of Health stalling must stop and this urgently needed money must be paid immediately."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “We remain committed to ensuring all people affected by this tragedy receive their payments promptly.

“We continue working collaboratively with our colleagues in Scotland and the existing schemes responsible for administering support.”