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Safeguarding Research Collaborations and Scientific Excellence

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 7th November 2018.

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Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I am sure that Mr Gray would recognise that, when the Presiding Officer dropped her bottle of water when he was speaking, she was merely testing one of Einstein’s theories rather than trying to interrupt his remarks.

I heard Oliver Mundell accusing some of us of being “obsessive”. When I watch Jacob Rees-Mogg and one or two others on the television, I hear a whole new definition of obsession, which I invite Mr Mundell to consider carefully.

I, too, welcome Richard Lochhead to his place. I thought that he might have got fisheries research in. He spent eight years talking about that in the Parliament. I suppose that the point that he would have made—I will help him to make it—would have been that many people from every part of Europe, whom I can remember, worked at the marine laboratory in Torry doing fisheries research. That still applies now, and that is still certainly the case in the marine centre in Scalloway in Shetland.

When any country faces the uncertainties of the modern world, it makes sense to play to its strengths. Scotland’s higher education institutions, the research that they do and the people whom they employ are a strength that has attracted academics from across the globe to the UK and Scotland. That strength has been a welcome mat for international students and it demonstrates that we are a connected part of the European universities and research infrastructure. We are simply part of that European family.

However, we are now in danger of losing that strength. That is why 35 Nobel laureates recently wrote to the Prime Minister to call for a deal on science and innovation that allowed the “closest possible cooperation” between the UK and the EU. That is a group of outstanding people. It includes the president of the Royal Society, Venki Ramakrishnan, and Dr Richard Henderson, who won the Nobel prize for chemistry in 2017 and who was born in Edinburgh and studied at the University of Edinburgh. That strength is why 23 senior figures from the University of Edinburgh, the University of Aberdeen and the University of St Andrews signed an open letter that warned of the consequences of Brexit and called for a people’s vote, and it explains why the Francis Crick Institute in London, which is the biggest biomedical research laboratory in Europe, surveyed more than 1,000 staff in October and found that 97 per cent thought that a hard Brexit would be bad for UK science.