Safeguarding Research Collaborations and Scientific Excellence

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

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Photo of Gil Paterson Gil Paterson Scottish National Party

Miles Briggs tries to conflate two different things. [


.] If the member will let me finish, I will say that the impact that Brexit is already having on the Golden Jubilee is clear. By referring to the situation of one of my constituents, I will explain further the damage that is likely to happen.

Last year, my constituent Dr Kevin Parsons, who is a Canada-born academic at the University of Glasgow, came face to face with the mindless and insensitive bureaucracy of the Home Office. He came to Scotland under his wife’s UK ancestry visa in 2012. When she applied for UK citizenship, he was advised to apply for indefinite leave to remain, which he required to continue his work. His application was refused on a technicality.

At Glasgow university, Dr Parsons managed a research group that employed two highly educated researchers and included three postgraduates who were working for their PhDs. He attracted external research funding that paid for the whole group. That enhanced the university’s research reputation and assisted with the university’s finances generally. To make things worse, a £1.3 million grant from the UK Government for Dr Parsons to continue his research, which he received a few weeks before the refusal, could have been lost, while that Government was at the same time threatening his right to stay in Scotland. Fortunately, after a substantial public outcry, Dr Parsons was granted indefinite leave to remain.

That Home Office incompetence could have resulted in the closure of the biodiversity research group at Glasgow university; the loss of substantial research funding to Scotland; the loss of three well paid and highly skilled research jobs; the loss of study opportunities for three postgraduate students; and the deportation of a young family who have much to offer Scotland. That example is from just one project.

All that would have harmed Scottish society, and that incompetence happened before Brexit. With a no-deal result from the Brexit negotiations, the prospects for international research collaboration and for the Scottish research industry will be sorely damaged. With no deal, Scotland will lose significant EU funding; international medical research funding; its worldwide reputation for excellent research and academic achievement; postgraduate opportunities; the ability to properly staff our hospitals and our research establishments; and much more.

It is therefore essential for the UK to remain in the customs union and the single market after Brexit. That is the only way in which Scotland’s research industry will survive at its present level.