27-11-2013

How will research be funded in an independent Scotland?

Yesterday the Scottish Government issued the document “Scotland’s Future – Your Guide to an Independent Scotland”, which sets out the gains of independence for Scotland – whichever party is in government – and the vision and priorities for action if they are the first government of an independent Scotland. It consists of five parts, one of which contains 650 questions and answers about independence. We transcribed some of these issues related to research funding if Scotland becomes an independent country (questions 247 to 249 ). As in many other aspects, such as currency or even the monarchy, the current Scottish government is in favor of sharing structures and financial systems with the UK. Possibly there are differences with the situation that an independent Catalonia would live in relation to Spain. However, it is clear that researchers are conscious of the benefits of collaboration across borders, and of sharing certain infrastructures. Maybe these questions and answers could become a starting point for discussion, we invite you to share your feedback.

 

How will research be supported in an independent Scotland?

The excellence of Scottish universities is recognised internationally and they are highly successful in winning competitive funding grants. Building on their reputation our universities will continue to compete for substantial funding for their research on the same competitive basis as they do currently.

 

Will an independent Scotland set up its own research councils?

There are a number of options for research funding in an independent Scotland including establishing a Scottish Research Council for the allocation of research monies or as a mechanism for directing funding into existing pan-UK research councils. We recognise the benefits – for the academic community, business and research charities across the UK – of maintaining long-term stability in research funding and systems that support initiatives of scale and researchers working together across boundaries. With independence we will seek to maintain a common research area with the rest of the UK including existing shared Research Councils.

 

Why would UK research councils continue to fund research in an independent Scotland?

Scotland already contributes to funding of the UK Research Councils through the tax base and this Government intends that it should continue to contribute as an independent country. The excellence of Scottish universities’ research is reflected in their success in winning competitive UK Research Council grant funding.

The rest of the UK benefits from Scotland’s high quality research and our centres of excellence and shared infrastructure are used by researchers from across the UK including: five Medical Research Council research centres; five Isotope facilities; the All-Waters Combined Current and Wave Test Facility; and the Roslin Institute.

Successful research depends on collaboration across boundaries, whether disciplinary, institutional or national. Research collaboration contributes directly to the competitiveness of the Scottish and UK economies through knowledge creation and exchange and direct collaboration with business, as well as supporting intellectual life and the academic aspirations of institutions and researchers.

It is in both Scotland’s and the UK’s interests to minimise any barriers to research collaboration and to maintain a common research area.

 

How would the research councils be funded?

Scotland already contributes to the funding of the Research Councils through the tax base. Following independence, Scotland would contribute directly from the Scottish Government budget giving us a clearer role in setting the strategic objectives of these bodies. With independence, we would intend to negotiate with Westminster a fair funding formula for Scotland’s contribution based on population share but taking reasonable account of the fact that the amount of research funding received by Scottish institutions from the Research Councils may reflect higher or lower levels of funding.

Marta Alegret (Universitat de Barcelona)

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