We will pay too high a price for independence

September 18, 2014

The results of your survey show that a majority of Scottish academics will vote “no” in the referendum on 18 September and that an even larger proportion believe that separation will be damaging for Scottish universities (“Scottish academics set to reject call to break up UK”, News, 11 September). This reinforces the recent published concerns – in an open letter released by the Better Together campaign – of the 65 leading professors in clinical and biomedical research, the concerns of senior figures such as Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, the concerns of former Scottish university principals and the published concerns of many other experts over the past year.

In an independent Scotland, Scottish universities would not be able to remain part of the UK research system. They would be hit by the loss of tuition fees from the rest of the UK, a loss of income from UK charities, increased difficulties in cross-border collaboration with the rest of the UK, a loss of access to the research infrastructure shared with the rest of the UK and probably a reduction in the number of overseas postgraduates. They would no longer benefit from the long-established worldwide links set up by UK agencies such as the British Council.

Devastating though this would be for our universities, it is of course equally damaging for the Scottish economy as a whole. We will all lose if our great universities suffer. Scottish universities contribute £6.7 billion annually to the Scottish economy and employ 142,000 people. They are important sources of innovation, attracting high-technology industry to Scotland, and they deeply enrich every aspect of our cultural life. What our universities are doing and will continue to do as part of the UK is to build on this heritage. I will vote “no” because I do not wish to put all this at risk.

Susan Shaw
Emeritus professor, University of Strathclyde

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