Scottish independence: Scientific and medical research could suffer if Scotland votes yes in referendum

Experts from three of the UK's leading research institutions have said continued collaboration between Scotland and the UK after independence could be 'costly' and 'bureaucratic'

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The Independent Online

Medical and scientific research in the UK could suffer if Scotland votes for independence in this September’s upcoming referendum, according to the heads of three academic institutions.

Leaders from the Royal Society, the British Academy and the Academy of Medical Sciences have all said that scientific collaboration could be negatively impacted if Scotland was to separate from the UK, despite the Scottish government saying that cooperation in research would continue even if there was a ‘Yes’ vote.

In a joint letter to The Times, Sir Paul Nurse, Lord Stern and Sir John Tooke claimed that for the same levels of research that Scotland enjoys now to continue, it would cost the tax payer far more than it would if Scotland decided to stay as part of Britain.

The letter said that scientific research in Scotland had for a long time benefited from the funding it had received from the UK and any reduction to this funding could lead to Scotland’s research capabilities being severely depleted.

They wrote: "If it turns out that an independent Scotland has to form its own science and research budget, maintaining these levels of research spending would cost the Scottish taxpayer significantly more."

The three leading academics said the strong links that have been developed in the UK's research sector would be put at risk if Scotland were to leave, and any attempt at maintaining a similar level of cooperation would be “costly” and “bureaucratic”.

According to the letter, a split would not only affect Scottish research but research in the UK’s remaining countries would suffer too.

The presidents wrote: "We believe that if separation were to occur, research not only in Scotland but also the rest of the UK would suffer.

"However, research in Scotland would be more vulnerable and there could be significant reductions in range, capacity and critical mass."

The letter from the three Presidents runs contrary to the predictions from a paper published in April by the Scottish government.

In the paper, it predicted that independence would in fact boost Scotland’s research capabilities, as it not only allow the continuation of its existing UK partnerships but also give Scottish academic institutes the opportunity to explore new partnerships.

In reaction to the letter sent, a Scottish government spokesman has dismissed the findings saying that collaboration, even if Scotland were to gain independence, would continue and still be beneficial to both sides.

He said: “Unlike the scenario presented in this letter, with independence the Scottish government is fully committed to maintaining existing collaborative research arrangements with the rest of the UK.

"The Scottish government has already shown our commitment to research through increased investment since 2007 and we will continue to support research in an independent Scotland providing levels of public investment in university research which enable our universities to remain internationally competitive.”

"We will also ensure there is no adverse funding impact from Scotland's transition to independence and, indeed, believe that independence will bring opportunities for increased research funding through wider collaborations with partners in Europe and beyond, facilitated by our greater presence and profile on the world stage."