In the debate over Scottish Independence, one topic of particular interest to me and my colleagues is how funding for science and research will fare (see my previous post). It was in the news again today, with some academics voicing "grave concerns that the country does not sleepwalk into a situation that jeopardises its present success in the highly-competitive arena of biomedical research". Not that the current situation is rosy. Other academics in the same article observe
One question one might ask is which government shows stronger appreciation of the value of science? The coalition planned to slash science funding as part of its austerity programme, with a reprieve at the last moment leading to only a mild cut. The UK as a whole tends to elect governments that cut education and maintain science funding only when pressed."The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) has noted 'the cumulative erosion' of the science budget of 'over £1.1billion' and CaSE director, Dr Sarah Main, has commented that 'the last four years of a flat cash science budget is biting scientists and engineers and squeezing universities'.
In contrast, time and again, the Scottish people elect governments that understand the value of education and science. Why else is Scotland home to more top universities per head than anywhere else in the world?
As one concrete example, consider my office. The award-winning Informatics Forum (pictured above) would not exist without direct support from the Scottish Government. Read this press release from 2005:
Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian has secured an additional £14 million from the Scottish Executive towards the £42 million construction costs of the University of Edinburgh's Informatics Forum. ...
A further £5 million has been awarded by Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian towards a strategy which will maximise engagement with local and international industry, ensuring Scotland reaps the economic benefits the Forum will generate. ...
Tim O’Shea, Principal of the University of Edinburgh, says: ‘Scotland is already a world-leader in a number of areas of Informatics and with the vision and support of the Scottish Executive and Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian it will become even stronger.’