Charity warns of risk to Scottish research without £40 million funding from government

Opportunities for Scottish-based scientific research may be lost in coming years without significant funding from the Scottish Government, a charity has warned.

The British Heart Foundation has called on the Government to allocated a further £37 million to the Chief Scientist Office.

This will bring Scotland in line with England, the BHF said, as currently the Scottish Government invests more than a third less per member of the population than the UK Government invests in England.

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The charity said the past two years have been the hardest in its 60-year history, as the Covid pandemic had a “devastating” impact on income.

Professor James Leiper, BHF Associate Medical Director and Professor of Molecular Medicine at Glasgow University.

It comes as a report commissioned by the BHF from the Fraser of Allander Institute, part of Strathclyde University, found the medical research sector to be one of the most effective in Scotland at driving economic growth and employment.

Every £1m spent on medical research by charities generates £1.33m of Gross Value Added for the Scottish economy, it found, putting the industry fourth out of 97, ahead of construction, retail and hospitality.

Professor James Leiper, BHF associate medical director and professor of molecular medicine at Glasgow University, said there were “many families across Scotland waiting for the next medical breakthrough”.

"Charities can only do so much and that is why we are asking the Scottish Government to prioritise funding in this area to compliment the work of medical research charities,” he said.

“We are funded entirely by public donations, but if the Government was to invest more in infrastructure and career development in our research institutions, more of the money we raise could be used directly to fund the discovery of treatments and cures for patients.”

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Professor Chim Lang, professor of cardiology and head of the Division of Molecular and Clinical Medicine at Dundee University, said research funding drives economic growth and develops the next generation of scientists.

He said: “BHF and other charity research funding has helped support innovative research that has had direct application to clinical care with impact on improving the health of patients not only in Scotland, but throughout the world.

"It is also a major driver of our economic growth and has helped in the training and development of the next generation of doctors and physician scientists leading research, teaching and clinical care across the NHS and our universities. I believe that it is important that the Scottish Government provide more funding to support this research.”

Professor Mairi Spowage, director at the Fraser of Allander Institute, said: “This report demonstrates the substantial role that charities make to medical research funding in Scotland. This funding not only results in advances in healthcare, but also plays a key role in supporting Scotland's economic growth.

“Charity medical research funding is put to work in Scottish universities and medical research organisations, bringing together experts to develop novel treatments and medicines. This research shows how this funding flows through Scottish supply chains, ultimately generating employment and economic activity across the whole of Scotland.”

The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.

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