The Scottish Conservative Party has said cancelled operations have risen to an all time high in Scotland since it became a devolved nation.

Tory MSP John Lamont said centrally set targets do not work after figures showed a 10 per cent rise in cancelled operations in 2008-09 compared with the previous 12 months.

Latest figures released showed a total of 15,913 operations were cancelled in 2008-09. Throughout the course of the previous year there were 14,442 cancellations.

Mr Lamont said the figures back up the argument that clinicians should set their own priorities. The figures were revealed in an answer from health secretary Nicola Sturgeon.

Mr Lamont said the findings meant the nationalist government had “some explaining to do”.

He said: “It is further proof of the burden of politically set targets by a centrally based government and why clinical professionals, not remote politicians, should set their own priorities.”

The figures show that Lanarkshire NHS Board had the biggest number of cancelled operations over an 11-year period, followed by Highland, and then Ayrshire and Arran.

Many health boards, including Forth Valley, Grampian and Glasgow and Clyde, had fewer cancelled operations in 2008-09 compared with 1999-2000.

A Scottish government spokesman said: “Around 98.5 per cent of all NHS procedures take place as planned following a patient’s admission to hospital.

“Operations are only cancelled where there are good reasons for doing so. For example, in the interests of safety if a patient is unfit or unprepared for surgery, or to make way for emergency procedures.

“However, we are keen to ensure that NHS boards continually improve both their efficiency and the experience for patients. That’s why we have agreed a new target with boards to reduce the length of pre-operative stays. This will mean more patients are assessed on their readiness for surgery ahead of their admission to hospital.”