Greg Clark, the new minister for universities and science, has used one of his first speeches in the position to warn Scottish researchers of the disadvantages of leaving the UK.
He said that a vote for independence in September “is a vote to leave the UK’s institutions, such as the research councils”.
The Scottish government has argued that maintaining a joint research councils system between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK would be in both countries’ interest.
But speaking on 24 July to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which was meeting at the University of Glasgow, Mr Clark countered: “There is no international precedent for sharing or replicating a system on the scale of the current UK funding streams across international borders.”
He argued, as others have done, that Scottish universities win a disproportionately large amount of funding from the UK’s research councils, compared to the size of the country’s population or economy.
Mr Clark added that the UK’s current research collaboration with the Republic of Ireland – held up by some as a model of how Scotland might continue its research links even if it left the UK – was “small scale”, with each country meeting the cost of its own research.
“Researchers from the Republic of Ireland have far more limited access to UK scientific infrastructure than researchers from Scotland and the rest of the UK,” he said.
“I hope many more of you will champion the integrated and thriving research base in Scotland and the rest of the UK,” Mr Clark told his audience. “It is clear this heavily integrated research framework would be at real risk in the event of Scottish independence.
“You can help inform voters how the interests of Scottish scientists and researchers – and resulting wider economic and societal benefits – are best served through Scotland remaining an integral part of the UK.”