Victims from an NHS blood scandal which affected around 3000 Scots may die before getting proper compensation because the UK-Government is dragging its heels, supporters warned last night,

They say the UK Government is responsible for delaying the payout of increased financial support for victims pledged by the Scottish Government by trying to co-ordinate their approaches, leaving scored in financial dire straits.

Campaigner Bruce Norval, a haemophiliac who was infected with hepatitis C through contaminated blood and now has cirrhosis of the liver, said they had been led to believe payments could have been made as early as March this year.

But he said: “Now we are into June - it is very hard when you are watching your friends drop dead and trying to assure them their widows will be alright when they have barely got enough money in their bank account to be buried.

“We are watching friends die, we are watching widows struggle.

"It is very hard to have belief things are going to get better when nobody in government is speaking to us.”

Holyrood announced earlier in the year that those who had been infected with HIV and hepatitis C from contaminated blood would be entitled to extra money, including for the first time, widows and widowers who will also be given annual payments.

Campaigners say the UK Government – which is lagging behind in providing help south of the border - is now “dragging out” negotiations on how it can be paid quickly through existing UK-wide schemes used to co-ordinate financial support for victims.

A separate Scottish scheme to coordinate payments to victims will be set up - but is unlikely to be operational until next year.

Health minister Shona Robison told the Sunday Herald she has now written to UK Public Health Minister Jane Ellison asking that work to deliver the payments is speeded up.

But Dan Farthing-Sykes, chief executive of charity Haemophilia Scotland, said: “We are concerned that the UK Government might be trying to drag out negotiations, delaying the new Scottish payments, until they are ready to make changes south of the border.

“The English review process has consistently lagged behind events in Scotland.

"For example, the Department of Health in England even failed to hit its own deadline for launching its consultation (on financial support for victims) by the end of 2015.

"This means that their proposals are significantly less developed than those in Scotland.”

He added: “There is a long history of Scotland facing unacceptable delays while England tries to keep pace on the contaminated blood issue. In our view it would be totally unacceptable for Scottish payments to be delayed by even a day while the UK Government plays catch up.”

Thousands of Scots – many of whom were haemophiliacs - were infected by contaminated NHS blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

Scotland is the only part of the UK to hold an official inquiry into the issue, with the Penrose inquiry which reported last year.

The Scottish Government subsequently announced a package of improved financial support for victims, including annual payments increasing from £15,000 to £27,000 a year for those with HIV or advanced hepatitis C, and an increase in a lump sum for those with chronic hepatitis C from £20,000 to £50,000. Widows or widowers will also now be entitled to receive 75 per cent of the annual payment.

Farthing added: “The Scottish Government has already recognised that this financial support is urgently needed. Infected families are facing serious financial pressures.

"Many of those infected wonder if they will live long enough to receive the new payments.

"Some people are in desperate situations and need this money urgently.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “The Scottish Government is working hard to deliver increased payments for those infected in Scotland through the existing UK support schemes this year – but we are dependent on the Department of Health and HMRC.

“I can assure everyone concerned that we are progressing this as fast as we possibly can.”

She added: “I have recently written to Jane Ellison MP at the Department of Health to ask that her department progresses this work more quickly and will soon be having a further discussion with her to emphasise that people need to start to receiving the extra payments as soon as possible.

“In addition, the new Scottish scheme for delivering these payments will be up and running in 2017.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “We want people affected by this tragedy to get their payments quickly – we’re just as committed to this as our colleagues in Scotland.

“Officials from both countries are working together to resolve this as quickly as possible.”