Democracy has nothing to gain by silencing academics

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THE allegations in the 7 June broadcast of Dispatches that the Scottish Government is trying to silence voices in the academic community ahead of the referendum is deeply concerning. This issue speaks to the concerns of Sir Paul Nurse raised in Scotland on Sunday (News, 6 July). We believe academics have a key role to play in a debate. Neither side, nor democracy itself, has anything to gain by silencing expert opinion.

We have seen in the past the Scottish Government call into question academics’ right to voice an opinion when Shona Robison complained to Dundee University after Professor Chris Whatley spoke out in ­favour of the UK. Given the negative reaction then, you would have thought the Scottish Government would have learned its lesson and accepted free debate. Reports to the contrary are of great concern. This is the biggest debate Scotland will ever have, and all academics should be free to speak up.

Andrew Miller, former principal of Stirling University; Susan Shaw, former vice-principal of Strathclyde University; Robin Leake, former vice-principal of Glasgow University; David Caldwell, former director of Universities Scotland; John Coggins, former vice-principal of Glasgow University; Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University; Stuart Bramley, former dean of science, Strathclyde University; Peter Holmes, former vice-principal of Glasgow University; Alan Archibald, deputy director, The Roslin Institute; Patrick Harkness, lecturer at Glasgow University

WE SHOULD all be alarmed by Sir Paul Nurse’s speech. He states that the principals of Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Aberdeen and Dundee universities are all against independence as they believe it would negatively affect research funding. However, all of them are apparently fearful of expressing their opinions openly due to a Scottish Government which they consider would be “vindictive” towards them in a post-referendum independent Scotland.

Michael Russell, the Secretary for Education, knows all about the concerns over funding, of course. However, rather than engaging in an open debate, Russell has disappeared from the national stage, choosing to go to ground while a culture of intimidation and fear is allowed to permeate.

Peter Tucker, Edinburgh