15-02-2014

Independence, research funding and the country that we want

A few months ago we discussed in this blog the presentation of the Scottish Government’s white paper on independence, a document which contains questions and answers about independence, some of them about research and health in an independent Scotland. Recently, an article entitled “Health on the agenda in Scottish independence referendum” has been published in Lancet. Although the article refers mainly to the specific situation of Scotland and the UK in relation to the public health system, one can draw some basic ideas which can be applied also to Catalonia.

For example, in the article it is mentioned that the Scottish Government will seek to maintain the UK-wide research funding system, with Scotland contributing directly to the Research Council budget. As it is commented in the white paper, Scotland already contributes to funding of the UK Research Councils through the tax base and the Scottish Government intends that it should continue to contribute as an independent country. What is the situation in Catalonia? Between 2008 and 2011 we received approximately 700 million annual funding from the R & D National Plan, which corresponds to 20% of the total budget in Spain. What will happen when we become independent? Will we not be allowed to access the National Plan funds? It is possible, because the attitude of the Spanish Government is not the same as the UK Government. However, we must keep in mind that we have already paid the funds of the National Plan, because we contribute to the central government income through taxes. In fact, according to estimates of the Department of Economy and Knowledge of Catalonia, Catalonia accounts for 19.4 % of total revenues of the central government, but only receives 14.2 % of the total expenditure of the state. As Josep Maria Martorell comments in a recent interview “the amount that we attract through the National Plan is probably much less than what our citizens pay. So, we should not worry too much to have access to the National Plan if we have our own resources … With the additional resources that we will obtain, we can launch our own policy of research projects.” He adds an interesting point: “I think that the Catalan Government will dare to agree common policies with neighboring countries”. Spain will be one of these neighbors. Will we dare? Will they?

Another aspect that could be highlighted from the article published in Lancet is that the Scottish independence referendum is about more than national identity. It’s certainly not a nationalistic debate—it’s very much becoming a debate about the kind of society people want to live in. In this sense, the Catalan National Assembly is making a start with the project “The country that we want”.  The project aims to create a pluralistic and participatory process in which citizens will raise the main challenges and proposals on the social, political, cultural and environmental live in a better country. It aims to be a forum to respond to questions about the independence process and its consequences. It is an exercise of sovereignty construction, with participation of different sectors of the country, the more plural and transverse the better. One of the axes of this project is “Research, knowledge and infrastructure”, and Research for Independence participates in it. We will keep you informed about the project and how you can contribute to it.

Marta Alegret (Universitat de Barcelona)

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