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Higher Education Research in an Independent Scotland

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Introduction

Investing in our internationally excellent universities, supporting their world-class and high impact research and helping them build links and collaborations across the globe is at the heart of our ambitions for an independent Scotland.

Following a vote for independence in the referendum on 18 September 2014, there will be a period of preparation for Scotland to become an independent country. The Scottish Government is clear that setting an independence date of March 2016 will allow a reasonable time for Scotland to assume its status as an independent country before the Scottish parliamentary elections in May 2016. This period between the referendum and independence will see negotiations with the rest of the UK, represented by the Westminster Government, and with the EU and other international partners and organisations.

This paper sets out further details of the Scottish Government's vision for the future of university research outlined in Scotland's Future[1] and the policies it would pursue in the negotiations and if re-elected in May 2016 as the government of an independent Scotland. The paper is structured around four key principles:

A strong research base is at the heart of the Scottish Government's ambitions for an independent Scotland - with independence we will be better-placed to support a further strengthening and enhancement of our world-class research base

Scotland's universities have a track record of success in attracting funding from a range of sources, reflecting the excellence and global reputation of our universities and the quality of their research. This research delivers tangible economic and social benefits for Scotland and the wider world. This Government has demonstrated its commitment to supporting university research - both through investment such as the Global Excellence Initiative and through novel ventures including Innovation Centres. We will continue to support research in an independent Scotland, providing levels of public investment in university research that will enable our researchers to remain internationally competitive. As part of this commitment we will ensure that existing levels of Government investment (through the Scottish Funding Council and the Research Councils) are at least maintained. We will further ensure that there is no adverse funding impact from Scotland's transition to independence and indeed believe that independence will bring opportunities for increased research funding through collaborations with the private sector and with partners in Europe and beyond facilitated by access to additional financial levers and our greater presence and profile on the world stage as an independent nation state.

Research excellence is underpinned by extensive collaborations across the globe - with independence we will maintain existing collaborations while extending our global reach with new partnerships and collaborations

Knowledge knows no boundaries. The very best research operates across boundaries be they disciplinary, institutional or nation state. Research excellence is achieved through collaboration - whether within Scotland (for example, through our world-renowned Research Pools), within the UK (such as Technology Strategy Board Catapults), or across Europe and the wider world. Scotland can already point to significant successes in working across boundaries and attracting international research centres to Scotland. With independence we will seek to maintain existing collaborations that work well - such as remaining part of a common research area with the UK - while enhancing collaborations with other countries within the European Research Area, and in particular with our Nordic neighbours and across the globe.

The ability to determine our own destiny - with independence we will have full powers to develop a research funding policy and landscape tailored to Scotland's strengths and needs

The Scottish Government is the largest single source of university research funding in Scotland with funding allocated through the Scottish Funding Council accounting for one third of university research income in 2012/13. A further quarter of research income is secured from the Research Councils. This dual funding system comprising funding from the Scottish Funding Council and competitively awarded grants from national Research Councils (funded through the tax base) works well. We will maintain this approach with independence. There are clear benefits to Scotland and the rest of the UK of continuing to operate a common research area with shared Research Councils. Scotland currently contributes financially to the Research Councils through its share of UK tax receipts - equivalent to a £292 million contribution in 2011/12 and £262 million in 2012/13. With independence we will seek to agree a continuation of the current arrangements while also using the opportunity independence provides through providing a direct funding contribution to have a clearer, more transparent input into the functioning of the Research Councils and the identification of research priorities. We will do this within the context of our commitment to the Haldane Principle recognising that researchers, not politicians, are best placed to take decisions around what research to fund.

Independence offers wider opportunities and benefits - with independence we will be able to create an environment that better supports a vibrant and flourishing research base

Independence will give future Scottish Governments a full range of fiscal levers to incentivise research and to encourage greater collaboration between universities and the private sector supporting productivity and sustainable economic growth. It will create a clear platform for Scotland to engage in international arenas - especially in Europe where we would take our seat at the table as a full member of the European Union. Independence will also enable Scotland to reverse current UK immigration policies which are damaging the university sector and put in its place an immigration policy that welcomes international students and high calibre researchers from across the world and recognises the contribution they can make to Scotland's economy and society.