The Aberdeen Research Consortium has won a partial victory in its battle against the loss of the Torry Food Science Laboratory, due to be relocated to York as part of the Ministry of Agriculture's central science laboratory.
A consortium task force headed by Hugh Pennington of Aberdeen University's department of medical microbiology argued that while the Torry site might no longer be financially viable, its work could be retained in Aberdeen without the need for extra funds. The consortium, which includes the Aberdeen and Robert Gordon universities, the northern campus of the Scottish Agricultural College, and the Scottish Office marine laboratory, said it was crucial to retain the capability of addressing food safety issues in Scotland.
Douglas Hogg, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, has now said that he accepts this analysis in part, and has agreed that the 70 scientific posts will be distributed equally between York and Aberdeen. This concession follows a meeting between the consortium, MAFF and the Scottish Office Department of Agriculture.
Michael Forsyth, Secretary of State for Scotland, said: "At the start of negotiations, none of Torry's scientific jobs was earmarked to stay in Aberdeen. I am very pleased that the Aberdeen Research Consortium, with our backing, has managed to retain in Aberdeen so many high quality scientific jobs."
Professor Pennington said: "We thought we were putting together an attractive bid in the sense that it was very attractively priced. I suppose on balance I'm quite pleased because we've ended up with more work staying in Aberdeen. It's not as much as we were bidding for, but it was entirely possible we would get no improvement."
Professor Pennington said most of the microbiology work would go to York, while work on hydrocarbons and algal toxins in shellfish would stay in Aberdeen.
The consortium will meet the Government departments again on Monday, and hopes to produce specific proposals to go to the Torry staff. No decision has yet been taken about the lab's 30 support staff.