THE scandal of women crippled by mesh implant surgery in Scotland will have the same impact as the drug thalidomide, a human rights lawyer representing survivors has said.

Patrick McGuire warned of a “ticking time bomb" in the bodies of female patients who have had the controversial procedure.

He also said a failure to enforce a suspension on mesh implant surgery was "sticking two fingers up" to the Scottish Parliament.

McGuire, who is representing 500 affected women, predicted the scandal would have the same impact as that of the drug thalidomide which caused thousands of birth defects in children and led to millions of pounds in damages for victims.

The women he represents are now seeking damages from Scotland's NHS after they suffered painful and crippling complications. A hearing of the action was heard in the Court of Session earlier this month and is likely to be called again next year.

Tens of thousands of Scottish women had the implants to treat prolapse and bladder problems. In 2014 they were suspended by the Scottish Government after a number of women suffered severe pain and trauma. However some health boards still permit them.

McGuire, a partner at Thompsons Solicitors, warned that a failure to impose an outright ban would exacerbate the number of compensation claims and a surge in law suits as more patients develop medical complications – with the legal consequences similar to those of the thalidomide scandal decades ago.

Last night, mesh victims and Thalidomide justice campaigners said there were striking similarities between the two scandals.

Thalidomide was used in the late 1950s and early 1960s to combat morning sickness but led to 10,000 babies being born without limbs. The UK manufacturers Distillers Biochemicals Limited (now Diageo) paid out a total of £28 million during the 1970s to the families of those affected.

McGuire said he expected the mesh scandal to reach similar heights. "There are hundreds of claims, but they are the tip of a very large iceberg."

He said success for the 500 initial challenges could open the floodgates for tens of thousands more.

"Most significantly they [the NHS in Scotland] are continuing to use this treatment. To do this after the procedure was suspended is sticking two fingers up at the Scottish Parliament which took that decision."

McGuire also criticised the Scottish Government's claim that it could not introduce an outright ban on mesh implants. Ministers have said the power rests with the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

McGuire said: "I'm afraid this is Ministers doing a medical Pontius Pilate. It's a glaring irresponsibility."

Thalidomide survivors also said mesh victims were being denied justice in the same way they were decades ago.

On of them, Steve Sinclair, from Selkirk in the Borders, claimed the mesh victims were being ignored. "Mesh survivors are facing a similar sort of misrepresentation as thalidomide survivors did," he said.

Liz Buckle, who lives on the Isle of Lismore, Argyll, also a victim of the drug, added: "There are parallels with the thalidomide scandal. In common to both, there seems to be a collective process of denial from within the medical and political establishment, which is allowing the mesh products to be used without a proper level of regulatory monitoring or 'duty of care'.

"This also happened with thalidomide, it was openly marketed as a 'safe, wonder-drug'."

Holyrood's health committee convenor Neil Findlay called on the Scottish Government to use its powers over public service procurement to ban mesh implants. He said: "They should immediately clear the shelves of this product."

Former health secretary Alex Neil said the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) should be held to account over the use of the implants.

He said: "If the NHS is sued successfully, it in turn should sue MHRA over what has become an international scandal. I fully understand why women are so angry and want to sue. But the real culprits should be pursued."

In response, John Wilkinson, MHRA Director of Devices, said: "The decision to use mesh should be made between a patient and clinician, recognising the risks and benefits in the context of the distressing conditions being treated."

On Friday the UK health watchdog Nice recommended that mesh implants be restricted to research purposes only.

Catherine Calderwood, the Scottish Government's chief medical officer, said those restrictions would apply in Scotland.

She said: “In Scotland we asked NHS Scotland health boards to suspend the use of mesh in 2014 due to clinical concerns. That suspension will remain in place until we are satisfied all necessary procedures, approvals, and restrictions are in place."

New Zealand has now become the first major country in the world to ban all vaginal mesh procedures.

In the United States, mesh survivors are winning tens of millions of dollars in compensation pay outs.

Survivor Ella Ebaugh, 51,was awarded $57 million in a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson as the first person in America to speak out about the severe pain she suffered from a faulty implant.

Patrick McGuire said he expected a sharp rise of claims in Scotland in the coming years.

He said: "Many women are currently suffering in silence. The symptoms are horrible and a larger number of women could start to suffer the same devastating health problems.

"There could then be mass litigation."

Elaine Holmes, a member of the Scottish Mesh Survivors campaign, said she is contacted weekly by women in excruciating pain from the implants.

Holmes, from Newtown Mearns, suffers severe complications following her own mesh surgery.

Speaking to the Sunday Herald, she said: "When we first handed in a petition to parliament in 2014, two victims of thalidomide in the public gallery said to us that this was huge and bigger than thalidomide.

"At first I thought it couldn't be, but the scale of what we've been through has been grossly underestimated and all these women have been duped. We're getting contacted every week by women so this could be on the scale of thalidomide."

Earlier this year, Holmes and fellow Mesh survivor Olive McIlroy said they were "dismayed and disgusted" at the publication of an independent report into the risks or mesh implants and use which they claim has been "watered down".

McIlroy and Holmes, who resigned from the mesh implants review group, said they felt "utterly betrayed" by the publication.