Wilson defends Garrick rejection

April 17, 1998

Gerald Wilson, secretary of the Scottish Office education and industry department, has defended the government's decision to turn down the Garrick Committee's call for a chief scientific adviser for Scotland, writes Olga Wojtas.

But he acknowledged that a Scottish parliament may resurrect the idea when it begins work in January 2000.

Mr Wilson, in an address at the Edinburgh International Science Festival symposium on "Science and the Scottish Parliament", said the Government move may have caused some disappointment among the scientific community.

But ministers believed that the breadth and nature of the Scottish secretary's responsibilities within the present administrative framework made it difficult to define a clear role for a chief scientific adviser.

"This may be a subject a Scottish executive and the Scottish parliament will wish to reconsider."

Garrick, the Scottish arm of the Dearing inquiry, said the chief scientific adviser should develop an integrated strategy for Scottish research. Ministers were keen to do this, Mr Wilson said, but felt it was crucial that Scottish science was developed in the context of United Kingdom and international science rather than in isolation.

A key element of the Scottish devolution bill maintained the current approach to research, retaining a UK remit for the research councils.

The Scottish science base was more likely to stay strong if it remained part of this system, where excellence is rewarded with funding.

But, the devolution bill had established a "balanced package", also giving the Scottish parliament power to fund and commission research. It could set up bodies similar to the existing Scottish agricultural and biological research institutes, Mr. Wilson said.

The Scottish Office spends around Pounds 100 million annually on policy-related science and technology.

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