07-07-2014

Financement of research centers in case of independence: the example of NERC in the UK

One of the questions that arise in relation to research in an independent Catalonia is the situation of research centers belonging to CSIC, an institution which depends on the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness of the Spanish government.

The Spanish government could use as an example the response obtained by researchers from NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) in the UK, about the possible situation in terms of research funding in the event of a vote ‘Yes” in the Scottish referendum. We transcribe the information that has been sent to NERC staff regarding the official line of the organization through the process of independence:

-          Public bodies can continue to talk to the Scottish Government about business as usual issues – e.g. ongoing projects, etc.

-          If the Scottish Government ask for information that is readily available and in the public domain, then public bodies, including the Research Councils, should provide this.

-          UK public bodies, including the Research Councils, should not engage in any discussions that constitute, or could be constituted, as contingency planning or negotiations in the event of either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote.

-          The UK Government, including the Prime Minister has been very clear that it is not making contingency plans for Scottish independence, or pre-negotiating with the Scottish Government. If the Scottish Government want to discuss the use or ownership of specific institutions and infrastructure, the line to take is that assets and use of infrastructure would be subject to negotiations.

-          The Government has a very clear line on a future research relationship between an independent Scotland and the continuing UK: “The research councils fund UK-based activities. UK research councils, in the event of a split, would finance research activities in the continuing UK. That is how it would work. By and large, we do not finance research activities in France or Germany. We would of course collaborate on an international basis wherever possible, but this would not be on the same basis as the current UK-wide arrangements.”

-          In addition, the Research Councils can refer to the latest line to take on possible negotiations: “In the event of a majority vote in favour of independence, both the UK and Scottish Governments agree that negotiations would be needed. But that does not mean that representatives of the continuing UK would or could facilitate everything that the Scottish Government has said it hopes to achieve through independence.”