The SNP has welcomed statistics that show 96.9% of Scottish patients suspected to have cancer started treatment within the target time of 62 days.  In three NHS areas, Orkney, the Western Isles and Dumfries and Galloway, every single patient referred for cancer treatment began their treatment within the target time.  

Bob Doris, vice convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport committee, hailed the statistics which showed that the NHS in Scotland is continuing to meet the  target of 95%.

Mr Doris, SNP MSP for Glasgow, said:

“The hard work and effort of our NHS staff in delivering these fantastic statistics should be praised.

“It is testament to this hard work that some health boards have reached a 100% target, with many others not far behind.

“We know how important it is to cut waiting times to see a cancer specialist, so I’m delighted we passed our target of 95% ahead of schedule last year.

“The SNP is working hard to improve cancer survival which is why we launched our £30 million Detect Cancer Early programme.

“This fund aims to diagnose cancers earlier and treat patients when less aggressive treatment is required.

“Thousands of Scots are affected by cancer and that is why the SNP Government has taken steps to ensure that patients are seen by doctors and specialists as quickly as possible.”

By a Newsnet reporter

SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick will launch the consultation phase of his Members Bill on responsible parking tomorrow.  The Bill aims to allow all pedestrians to travel along the pavement and cross roads free from obstructions caused by poorly parked vehicles, which in extreme cases can leave people trapped inside their homes.

National Collective has today welcomed the backing of its second Creative Ambassador, Alan Bissett, the award winning Scottish novelist, playwright and performer.

He joins a growing list of internationally renowned and respected creatives that are expressing their support of independence for Scotland.

Fuel tanker drivers have voted overwhelmingly to take strike action in a ballot organised by the Unite union.  The union balloted over 2000 tanker drivers in seven different companies,  workers at five voted to take strike action over terms and conditions and safety standards.  The strike action, if it takes place, will be the first since the fuel blockades of 2000.

A statement from Unite said: “Tanker drivers work in an increasingly fragmented and pressurised industry, where corners are being cut on safety and training in a bid to squeeze profits and win contracts.”  

The union said that an average of almost 70% of workers in the five companies voted in favour of strikes, workers at a sixth voted in favour of industrial action short of a strike.  The companies deliver fuel to Shell and Esso petrol stations and to supermarkets.  

A spokesperson for the union has urged the government and the companies to negotiate with Unite in order to avoid strikes.  

Lib Dem energy secretary Ed Davey said: “The Unite ballot result is disappointing. The government is strongly of the view that strike action is wrong and unnecessary.  The union should be getting round the negotiating table, not planning to disrupt the lives of millions of people across Britain.  With the London 2012 Olympics approaching, it is unacceptable and selfish to behave in this manner and jeopardise our international reputation.”

The spokesperson for the UK government said that it had “robust resilience and contingency plans” in place to minimise any disruption a strike might cause to the public.  The government has plans to use members of the armed forces to make fuel deliveries if the supply to fuel pumps is threatened.

A North Sea oil platform has been evacuated after the discovery of a gas leak.  The leak was discovered on Sunday on the Elgin PUQ platform about 150 miles (240km) off Aberdeen.  The platform is operated by Total E&P; UK.

According to witnesses, the sea beneath the platform was “boiling” with gas emissions, indicating a sub-sea problem.  There is no evidence of any oil leak into the North Sea, but the platform is being monitored so quick action can be taken in case an oil leak should occur.  The gas cloud surrounding the platform is expected to disperse harmlessly.  

238 workers on the platform were taken by helicopter to Aberdeen.  Most of the workers were evacuated yesterday, leaving just 19 essential maintenance staff on the platform overnight.  However safety concerns led to the evacuation of these workers early on Monday morning.  The platform has been powered down.

Union official Jake Molloy told the BBC: “It appears, from what I have been told thus far, that the stand-by vessel which circles the installation had actually seen gas on the surface of the sea.

“Apparently the sea was seen to be ‘boiling’ with gas below the rig, which suggests a sub-sea problem, rather than a problem on the installation.”

“If it is, as they suspect, gas and a mixture of condensate gases – that is highly inflammable gases – and potentially H2S (hydrogen sulfide), which is a highly-toxic agent that can kill you on the spot, that explains itself that it is very dangerous. A very volatile situation.”

A statement from the company said: “Investigations are continuing to determine the cause of the ongoing gas leak and TEP UK is monitoring the situation closely.

“TEP UK is co-operating fully with all relevant authorities including the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Health and Safety Executive and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.”