New chief scientific adviser for Scotland is appointed

SCOTLAND'S new chief scientific adviser, Professor Sheila Rowan MBE, has said she will make sure scientific evidence on a range of controversial areas such as fracking and GM crops are taken into account by the Scottish Government.

Scotland's new chief scientific advisor Professor Sheila Rowan. Picture: John Devlin

The key role as chief science adviser to the Scottish Government was vacant for 18 months after Professor Muffy Calder quit in December 2014. That attracted strong criticism from Scotland’s science community, with the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Scientific Alliance Scotland claiming that their views were being ignored.

The Scottish Government, which came under fire for imposing a ban on GM crops without taking a range of scientific advice, had to re-advertise the post following a recruitment drive last year. Professor Rowan, director of Glasgow University’s institute for gravitational research, takes up the post on 13 June.

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Deputy First Minister John Swinney, announcing Prof Rowan’s appointment, said: “The Scottish Government values science and the expert scientific advice provided by our network of specialist science advisers.”

Prof Rowan, said: “I’m looking forward to working with ministers and officials to show the added value that science advice can bring.”

Asked about the criticism that the government had ignored scientific opinion, she said: “My personal opinions aren’t particularly relevant. But the fact there is a network of chief scientific advisers means there should be an opportunity to feed advice in. I want the Scottish scientific community to work together with the Scottish Government to ensure scientific evidence is taken into account as part of the policy making process.”

Scottish Lib Dem education spokesman Tavish Scott MSP said: “Science needs to be at the heart of what the government is doing and Prof Rowan’s appointment ends the farce of this post having remained unfilled for 18 months.”

Professor John Brown, Astronomer Royal for Scotland, said: “It is absolutely shocking that the Scottish Government took so long to fill this post. While no one person can be responsible for every decision this appointment has forced the government to have a named leader.”