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Business as usual for science was the message from the Scottish National Party’s ‘blueprint for independence’ released earlier today (26 November) by First Minister Alex Salmond MSP and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP.

The 670-page white paper highlights the international recognition of research undertaken in Scotland; around half of the research in Scottish universities has been assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent, and Scotland ranks third in the world (after Switzerland and the Netherlands) and ahead of all the G8 countries in terms of citations per researcher. Investment in research and development was also identified as a key component of driving innovation and supporting improved long-term economic performance.

The white paper sets out plans for how Scotland’s thriving research base would be funded, maintaining a common research area including shared research councils, access to facilities and peer review. An independent Scottish Government intends to negotiate with the Westminster Government to ensure a fair funding formula for Scotland's contribution based on population share. It is predicted that this would allow Scottish interests to be better and more consistently reflected in the identification of Research Council priorities.

The SNP plans to ensure that levels of public investment in university research are sufficient to enable Scottish researchers and universities to remain internationally competitive, with current levels of Government investment in university research at least maintained as part of wider plans to harness increased funding from the private sector and other sources including Horizon 2020.

The white paper states that under independence, Scottish domiciled students would continue to have free access to higher education. However, the current policy of charging fees to students from the rest of the UK to study at Scottish higher education institutions would be maintained.

In the run up to the publication of this white paper many in the science community, including the Society of Biology, expressed concerns over the continuity of science funding in the event of a ‘yes’ vote. While the 'business as usual' plans shed some light on science in an independent Scotland, more details are needed, particularly on European funding in the event of a delay in ascension to the EU.

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