The Scottish government says it is on track to meet targets to reduce the number of deaths from cancer, heart disease and stroke.

New data revealed that 53 per cent of all fatalities registered last year were from these conditions. Out of the total 55,700 deaths, 27 per cent were from cancer, 16 per cent from heart disease, and 10 per cent from strokes.

The overall figure was down from 65 per cent in 1981. Public health minister Shona Robison said she was confident that targets for reducing the number of deaths from these diseases by 2010 would be met.

Ms Robison said: “Little more than a decade ago, Scotland was seen as the sick man of Europe because of our high premature death rates from heart disease, stroke and cancer.

“But (the new) figures show that, with determination and a lot of hard work from NHS Scotland, we are on track to meet some very ambitious targets to reduce these deaths.”

The death rate from heart disease in under-75s was down 8.6 per cent on 2007 and that from cancer decreased by 2.1 per cent. However, the rate of strokes in the age group increased by 4.1 per cent.