Currently Scottish universities win a disproportionately large share of funding from the UK research councils, which is distributed competitively.
There are fears that they would be cut out of this system if the country became independent this September’s referendum, because maintaining it would constitute an effective subsidy from the UK to Scotland.
Today the Scottish government has outlined its research strategy for independence and says that “in all circumstances” leaving the UK will not end in cut research funding.
The document argues that it would be beneficial for both an independent Scotland and the UK to keep the existing UK wide research councils, although pro-union ministers have questioned whether this would be negotiable.
“However, in all circumstances we will guarantee no adverse funding impact from Scotland’s transition to independence,” says Scotland’s Future: Higher Education Research in an Independent Scotland.
It also indicates that an independent Scotland might take closer control of research priorities to boost the economy.
“Independence will give future Scottish governments a full range of fiscal levers to incentivise research and to encourage greater collaboration between universities and the private sector supporting productivity and sustainable economic growth,” it says.
But it also stresses a commitment to the Haldane principle that “researchers, not politicians, are best placed to take decisions around what research to fund”.