Jobs and pay boost as Scotland’s Covid-fighting pharmaceutical sector grows to £1.8bn

Robust growth in Scotland’s pharmaceutical industry is providing a valuable economic boost across the country with employment continuing to rise and pay levels significantly higher than average, new figures have revealed.

The pharma sector in Scotland now employs 5,600 people with salary levels significantly higher than average.
The pharma sector in Scotland now employs 5,600 people with salary levels significantly higher than average.

A report by the University of Strathclyde’s Fraser of Allander Institute shows the sector – which is playing a key role in the fight against Covid-19 – is now worth £1.8 billion and employs 5,600 staff, up 9 per cent since the last report in 2018.

The average annual salary for someone working in Scotland’s pharmaceutical industry stands at £35,600, significantly higher than Scotland’s annual median income of £24,486. The report points out that as the majority of jobs are in North Ayrshire, the Highlands and Dundee, the sector is having a major impact in some of the most deprived areas of Scotland.

Investment by pharmaceutical companies also has a significant impact on the wider economy with every 10 jobs in the sector estimated to create 17 elsewhere in the country, meaning the sector indirectly supports 15,250 jobs.

The report said the industry exported £575 million worth of manufactured goods, up from £550m in 2017. The £1.8bn gross value added figure for the sector is almost 6 per cent higher than the figure in the previous report.

Annual business spending on pharmaceutical R&D is now £165m – up almost £45m since 2012 – with projects ranging from genetic patient screening for rheumatoid arthritis, research into managing hypoglycaemia to reduce pressure on the Scottish Ambulance Service and better treatment of heart disease to reduce time people spend in hospital.

Alison Culpan, director of the Scottish arm of trade body the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said the report shows the sector “continues to thrive”.

“Scotland’s industry is stronger today than it was three years ago with more people employed in good jobs, more being spent on research and development, and exports topping half a billion pounds,” she said.

“It is important that the Scottish Government is ambitious and works with us to nurture and promote a sector which is not only exporting Scottish excellence around the world but delivering for the health of people here in Scotland.”

Mairi Spowage, deputy director of the Fraser of Allander Institute, added: “The contribution of the sector extends beyond the activities of pharmaceutical companies themselves, with their output supporting employment and income right across the country including areas of historically high unemployment and deprivation.”

The report also highlights how investment by the industry is ensuring Scotland continues to be an internationally recognised destination for innovative health research.

It highlights developments such as Bristol-Myers Squibb investing over £22m in clinical research in Scotland in recent years including through a clinical study with the University of Glasgow to use genetic patient screening to help diagnose the estimated 60,000 people across Scotland that suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.

Pharmaceutical company MSD has also been working with NHS Fife to reduce the number of ambulance callouts for patients experiencing a hypoglycaemic event by 38 per cent thanks to better follow-ups with patients, helping free up Scottish Ambulance Service capacity in the Fife area.

A message from the Editor:Thank you for reading this article. We’re more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers. If you haven’t already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription:


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.