Scottish Parliament

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If you would like to find out about our priorities in Scotland please get in touch. We’re keen to work with MSPs and provide them with the tools needed to keep cancer on the agenda.

Twitter: @CRUKScotland

Cancer Research UK is the world’s largest charity dedicated to saving lives through research. CRUK spent around £33 million in Scotland in 2021/22.

Cancer remains Scotland’s biggest killer. While notable progress has been made in improving survival rates, the incidence of cancer continues to grow, outcomes across Scotland show that cancer-related deaths are 74% higher in the most deprived population than the least deprived.

These major and persistent health inequalities in Scotland show that we must act to ensure everyone has the best chance of their cancer being diagnosed at the earliest stages, when their chances of survival are better. This is achieved by bold government action that enables all people to live healthier lives if we are to reduce cancer inequalities.

1 in 2 of us will be diagnosed with cancer during our lifetime. Therefore, cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care must remain a top priority for our government and health service.

Health is a devolved matter in Scotland. This means decisions about health policy are made by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament. That is why we work closely alongside the Scottish Government and the 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), advising on cancer and research issues and campaigning for prevention measures and early detection services.

In Scotland Cancer Research UK has:

  • Campaigned for and helped shape the new 10-year cancer strategy that commits to improve cancer survival and provide excellent, equitably accessible care. Aiming that, by 2033, cancer survival will have improved, particularly amongst the currently less survivable cancers such as lung cancer.
  • Investigated the sleep cycles of brain tumour cells; Professor Steven Pollard is leading an international team of scientists who want to understand exactly how brain tumour cells behave in sleep cycles. Potentially designing life-saving new therapies that either keep the cancer cells sleeping forever or force them into a waking state so they can be targeted by treatment.
  • Studied the biology of blood cancers, Dr Kasper Rasmussen is studying the epigenome of blood cancers, which researches the many chemical compounds that tell genes what to do, and when something goes wrong in this process, it can lead to cancer.
  • Researched for molecular clues to detect pancreatic cancer earlier, Professor Kevin Ryan in Glasgow is looking for molecular clues or ‘markers’ in samples of blood and urine that could be used to detect early pancreatic cancer. These markers will then be validated by comparing patient samples to healthy samples. To avoid symptoms of pancreatic cancer being easily mistaken for other less serious conditions and therefore being treated earlier.
  • Held the Secretariat for the Cross-Party Group (CPG) on Cancer, and co-hosting the annual Scottish Cancer Conference
  • Held the Chair and the Secretariat for the Scottish Cancer Coalition

Cancer is Scotland’s biggest killer and it won’t wait for the pandemic to pass by. During the recovery, it’s vital that the Scottish Government also takes action to prevent more cancers and protect cancer research. We called on all parties contesting the Scottish Parliament elections in May 2021 support our manifesto asks on behalf of people affected by cancer and those that care for and support them. 

CRUK has called on the Scottish Government to:

  • Tackle socio-economic inequalities in cancer
  • Scale Down Cancer with legislation to restrict price promotions on junk food
  • Take action to ensure Scotland meets its smoke free target
  • Take action to protect and support medical research
  • Set out plans to ensure Scotland has a cancer workforce fit for the future
  • Commit to a new cancer strategy to transform services and improve outcomes

The impact of COVID-19 on cancer services has been significant. It’s vital that cancer stays firmly on the political agenda during the new Scottish Parliament term. No matter what part of Scotland they live in, cancer patients deserve better outcomes.


Read our manifesto for the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary Election

Overweight and obesity is linked to 13 types of cancer. It is the single biggest cause of preventable cancer in Scotland after smoking and is a major public health crisis.

Scotland is the heaviest of any of the UK nations and among the heaviest of any OECD nations. More than 28% of Scottish children and 65% Scottish adults are either overweight or obese.

In 2018, the Scottish Government published the diet and healthy weight strategy and we are working with them to ensure that all the actions are implemented and effectively monitored and evaluated.

Thanks to the campaigning of Cancer Research UK and our partners, the Scottish Government committed to introducing legislation regulate the use of multi buy price promotions on foods high in fat, sugar and salt.

In Scotland, 36% of calories bought into the home were bought on promotions and 86% of people feel encouraged at some point to buy more unhealthy food than they would if it was at full price due to multibuys.

Almost two-thirds of Scots said that they support restricting price promotions. Support for these measures are even higher amongst parents, with 69% showing support for restrictions.

We are committed to working with the Scottish Government and MSPs of all parties to ensure that this Bill helps to prevent cancer across Scotland.

The earlier cancer is diagnosed, the more likely it is to be treated successfully. Diagnosing cancer involves a range of tests and specialist staff. With increasing prevalence of cancer among the population and a welcome emphasis on early detection, diagnostic services are struggling to cope.

That is why we are calling on the Scottish Government to act to address workforce shortages:

In the short term, the Scottish Government must address shortages of staff across radiology, radiography, pathology and endoscopy.

In the medium and longer-term, the Scottish Government and NHS Education Scotland needs to take a strategic approach to workforce planning, requiring:

  1. an audit of diagnostic workforce numbers to gauge the gap between current patient need and service capacity in endoscopy, diagnostic radiography, clinical radiology and cellular pathology.
  2. NHS Education for Scotland projecting the numbers and type of diagnostic staff that will be required over the next 10-15 years to meet growing patient need.
  3. based on the audit and future projections, the adoption of a robust national workforce plan and support for NHS Scotland’s Health Boards to produce clear, detailed proposals for growing the diagnostic workforce.

Scotland is home to world-class medical research, and we would like to see this expand. We have conducted a study to analyse the state of the medical research environment in Scotland identifying key policy actions we would like implemented:

  • The Scottish Funding Council should engage with the universities ahead of the next Research Excellence Framework (REF) in 2021 and review how previous changes have impacted medical research in Scotland’s leading Universities.
  • The Chief Scientists Office should review the portfolio of clinical research funding available in Scotland, including access to NIHR funding and whether this can be expanded. The research community should be consulted to ensure no gaps exist.
  • The Scottish Government and Scotland’s funding bodies should urgently quantify the impact of the potential loss of EU funds as the UK leaves the EU and seek funding sources to mitigate against this loss.
  • NHS Scotland should ensure that health service staff have sufficient time to participate in research