Contract Research Staff

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:52 pm on 22nd November 2001.

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Photo of Marilyn Livingstone Marilyn Livingstone Labour 12:52 pm, 22nd November 2001

I thank Alex Neil and Richard Simpson for their motions, which bring a very important issue to the top of the Parliament's agenda. That must be welcomed. I will keep my remarks as brief as possible.

We are all agreed on the importance of the research base to the Scottish economy—there is no argument about that. The recent parliamentary debate on the SHEFC review highlighted the issues that we are concerned about: research assessment exercise and other research funding.

Following on from what Tavish Scott said, I definitely agree with David Bleiman from the AUT—who is in the gallery—that the success of Scotland's science strategy rests on our researchers. That came over to the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Committee as it carried out its review. We all value staff in the universities and the further and higher education colleges. As Des McNulty said, 5,000 contract research staff are one of the nation's most significant assets.

I think that pay is the main issue if we want to encourage young people at school level and attract back young and not-so-young people who have left Scotland to work abroad. During our inquiry, we heard about the brain drain and the lack of people coming into science. That is a big issue for the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Committee and the Parliament to examine. If we do not consider the whole issue and provide a solid career structure that gives people the same employment rights as those of full-time, permanent staff, we will have a difficult job in front of us.

The lifelong learning review has discussed the simplification of funding and all the strategic issues surrounding lifelong learning. It has been highlighted that funding—rather than consideration of the needs of Scotland's research base—is driving matters. Funding is the driver in many areas of lifelong learning. I would like ministers to consider that.

I will briefly talk about equal pay for women. The committee has seen statistics showing that fewer women are entering science and technology. We must tell women and everyone else that science offers a good career with a good structure that allows progression through the sector.

We must create an environment of security. I welcome the debate.