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See also: Higher Education

GDP spent on R&D in the UK in 2012 was 1.72%, compared to the EU-28 average of 2.08%. Germany, USA and Japan are all approaching or above 3% GDP spent on R&D. [1] Five Scottish universities are in the world’s top 200 and are winning competitive research funds from the Research Councils at a rate of 50% above the UK average[2]. .


  1. Campaign for Science and Engineering: CaSE responds to 2014 Budget
  2. Newsnet Scotland: Some thoughts on the Scottish Affairs Committee report on the impact on higher education, research and tuition fees by Bryan D MacGregor and Murray Pittock 19 April 2014
Research Councils

Professors Bryan D MacGregor, Vice Principal of Aberdeen University, and Professor Murray Pittock, a Vice Principal at Glasgow University, argue that the UK Government's statement that a separate Scotland would not be part of the UK Research Council structure goes against the commitment to sharing knowledge and co-operating in its production[1].

"Why would the residual UK not want to collaborate with quality universities?"

The Scottish Government wants to subscribe to a shared Research Councils UK (RCUK) budget on the basis of a formula linked to a combination of population and historic grant capture share (depending on the Research Council). Professor Paul Boyle of RCUK told MSPs [2] that ‘he hoped the cross-Border network would continue’ and that ‘the body “strongly supported” the idea of Scotland remaining part of it.’ If a separate Scottish research council was set up, it is more than likely that there would be shared initiatives (as currently with RCUK and other states’ research councils. Elsewhere, research funding pooling occurs, e.g. in the European Research Council, among Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and in international collaborations such as CERN. But we are asked to accept that a residual UK government will not co-operate if Scotland dares to vote Yes.
Ferdinand von Prondzynski, vice-chancellor of Robert Gordon University, writing on 2nd September 2014, commented:
"The Scottish government has stated repeatedly ... that it will maintain research funding at least at current levels. I have little doubt that Scotland’s academic researchers will continue to thrive. Moreover, I am confident that they will help to create an innovation culture in industry and society[3]


  1. Newsnet Scotland: Some thoughts on the Scottish Affairs Committee report on the impact on higher education, research and tuition fees by Bryan D MacGregor and Murray Pittock 19 April 2014
  2. Scotsman, 27 March 2014
  3. Guardian: Ignore scare-mongering: independent Scotland will attract top researchers 2 Sept 2014.

Research Councils

The UK Government states that it is unlikely an independent Scotland would continue to receive such a favourable cut of research funding if it were to become a separate country.[1] The research collaboration between Scotland and the remainder of the UK would become an international rather than domestic concern. This would therefore be subject to negotiation and would be, in the Government's view, be unlikely to function according to the SNP’s plans.[2]

Academics Together, a pro-union group, claims that being part of a well-integrated, long-established and sophisticated UK research base means that Scotland is able to benefit from first class high tech laboratories to cutting-edge research centres. Breaking up the UK would endanger the free exchange of ideas and put unnecessary barriers in the way of those whose work is enhanced by both national and international collaboration [3]. The Institute of Physics has warned that jeopardising its UK ties would threaten the current level of Scottish access to various institutions such as the accelerators at CERN or the European Southern Observatory. Scotland currently receives over 13% of UK Research Council grants despite having just 8.4% of the population. This represents the lifeblood of what is Scotland’s third largest industry. Universities, in all their guises, contribute £6.3 billion to the economy and support 142,000 jobs. Numerous crucial pieces of work are in receipt of UK Research Council funding.


  1. HM Government, Scotland Analysis: Science and research
  2. HM Government, Scotland Analysis: Science and research
  3. Academics Together make a positive case for Union, by Elizabeth Smith November 7, 2013