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 will finish these points.

Seven hundred thousand people took part, a number that was surpassed only by the number of people who protested against the Iraq war. Nobody voted for the current chaos. People are entitled to have the final say on that deal, whenever London and Brussels conclude it. That is what should happen and Parliament should vote for that today. Many academics think that their MSPs should be doing exactly that.

That brings me to the examples that were made today in a range of areas, particularly on the immigration system. Joan McAlpine, Ross Greer and a number of others mentioned the UK Government’s Migration Advisory Committee and its recommendations. With regard to Jamie Greene’s point about trying to find a way forward, in its briefing for today’s debate, the RSE made an important point that bears close examination. It said that, in support of many parliamentary committees in London and Edinburgh, it has strongly pushed the idea that the UK Government should remove student migration from the net migration target to make it clear that it wants talent to come to the UK. Coupled with that, it should reintroduce the post-study work visa for international students at all universities. Taking those actions together would alleviate the tension between the UK Government’s commitment to reduce net migration and its ambition to ensure that the UK remains a hub for international talent.

We all await that outcome and many have been pushing for it for some considerable time. We are long overdue a sensible outcome to what is an unanswerable case, which will support academic institutions and student bodies here in Scotland and right around the UK.

I will reflect on two comments that were made in the Nobel laureates’ letter to the Prime Minister, which I mentioned earlier. The first was that

“Europe was the home of the enlightenment and the birthplace of modern science, but partly as a result of two devastating … wars in Europe … it suffered a” relative

“decline”.

It went on to argue that that has changed and that, rather than inhibiting progress, the benefits that have come through EU-related collaboration have led to great advances in science and, therefore, an increase in the number of opportunities that are available to the economy and the public in the wider community.

Those are very strong arguments and, on that basis, it seems to me to be unanswerable that the case must continue to be made.