SNP “stealth” cut to Scotland’s world class research

SNP “stealth” cut to Scotland’s world class research

Iain Gray

On Monday my Shadow Cabinet colleagues and I went to Aberdeen. It was there, at Aberdeen University’s Rowett institute that I saw the astonishing work being led by Professor Lora Heisler on the neuroscience of obesity.  Ground breaking work has identified the neurons which control appetite, and ways to switch them on and off.  The potential for a breakthrough on halting the “obesity epidemic” is immense.

The previous week I was at Abertay University with Professor Zhelev and his mini hearts.  These are only 1 mm across, grown from stem cells and are used to test treatments for heart conditions with the potential to revolutionise the way we design and test potential drugs.

Just two examples of the kind of research which makes Scotland’s universities truly world leading.

It’s advances like this which will underpin the economy of tomorrow, and create the industries that will provide high quality jobs for our young people in years to come.

Yet, yesterday we discovered that the SNP has cut £21.5 million from university research budgets  and  risks undermining Scotland’s world class higher education sector.

The heaviest cuts fall on the Global Excellence Fund, which will lose its funding of £14 million entirely. The initiative was designed to boost the world leading output and standing of Scotland’s universities, and was trumpeted by Mike Russell when he was Education Secretary.  His final act was to abolish it.

This is a failure to support the hard work of Scotland’s scientists and academics over many years, but also bad decision for all our futures.

This cut was delivered by stealth, £21 million was removed from the draft budget, after it was published, presumably in the hope no one would notice.

This money is already allocated in the budget bill making its way through Parliament. The Scottish Government should return this funding to Scotland’s universities.

Robbing research of resources so that the SNP’s Finance Secretary, John Swinney, has “budget flexibility” to play with is a false economy.

The future of Scotland’s economy rests on our world leading research, and the SNP need to understand that.