Edinburgh uni academics research fund warning

Edinburgh University's leading academics highlight concerns over research funding. Picture: Neil Hanna

Edinburgh University's leading academics highlight concerns over research funding. Picture: Neil Hanna

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Scottish independence: Three of Edinburgh University’s leading academics have warned of a brain drain away from Scotland and a massive loss of research funds from the UK and European Union if Scots vote in favour of independence on Thursday.

In a memo to colleagues seen by The Scotsman, Professor Robin Allshire and Professor Susan Rosser, both from the Institute for Cell Biology and School of Engineering, and Professor Andrew Millar from the Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology have warned that independence would be the end of Edinburgh University’s “outstanding reputation” in all sciences, engineering, medicine and veterinary medicine.

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They warned that “cutting edge research is a very expensive business, requiring state-of-the-art specialised facilities and resources, along with the salaries of the researchers themselves and all the many excellent support staff required to make the facilities, buildings and administrative infrastructure run smoothly.”

They went on: “None of this is possible without hard-won funding from the UK government and other agencies outside Scotland.”

And highlighting their concerns over independence, they said: “There is now legitimate concern amongst our research community that full independence will reduce the funding pot available to the University of Edinburgh, especially over the next five years and beyond.

They said that “a large proportion” of funds come from the UK government Research Councils and raised doubts over the Scottish Government’s claim to negotiate continued access to them.

They said: “In the interim, many research laboratories will lose key personnel, including their valuable expertise, and consequently their international competitiveness.

“In the longer term, it is unclear how much an independent Scottish Government could prioritise research funding relative to other competing interests, where they have committed support more publicly and more often.

“The budget of a small nation can only stretch so far.”

They added: “Uncertainty in all walks of life is extremely destabilising and dispiriting.

“The uncertainty regarding the funding of our research in the future has many consequences.

“Attracting top-level academics, senior investigators and researchers to the University of Edinburgh has become problematic.

“Furthermore, many of our research staff are worried about their funding prospects in an independent Scotland and are considering their options.

These are highly sought-after, talented individuals who caneasily find positions in Europe or

elsewhere, but they currently chose Edinburgh because of the attraction of stable and fair UK funding mechanisms.”

The concerns were dismissed by Yes Scotland.

Professor Bryan MacGregor, a spokesman for Academics for Yes, said: “The simple truth is that Scotland does well in open competition for funds but poorly where funds are allocated by other means, such as for research council centres and private research and development.

“The Scottish Government is committed to proper funding of research and other benefactors will support quality research wherever it takes place. Charities already raise substantial funds in Scotland.”

However, speaking for Better Together, Professor Hugh Pennington, Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said: “The overwhelming view of academics is that the best and brightest future our world-class universities is as part of the UK. Being part of the UK means more opportunities for our young people and generations to come.”r funds but poorly where funds are allocated by other means, such as for research council centres and private research and development.

“The Scottish Government is committed to proper funding of research and other benefactors will support quality research wherever it takes place. Charities already raise substantial funds in Scotland.”

However, speaking for Better Together, Professor Hugh Pennington, Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said: “The overwhelming view of academics is that the best and brightest future our world-class universities is as part of the UK. Being part of the UK means more opportunities for our young people and generations to come.”

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