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Tory MSP urges Scottish Government to back university research opportunities

By Alan Beresford

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THE Scottish Government have been urged to ensure the country’s universities are supported in growing new opportunities to collaborate on research with institutions across the United Kingdom.

Shadow Education Minister Jamie Halcro Johnston made the call after asking universities minister Richard Lochhead to report on the extent of collaborative research during a debate in the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Halcro Johnston said: “The United Kingdom has the most advanced university sector of any country in Europe.

"And globally, we are second only to the United States.

“As Scotland’s university sector now faces unprecedented challenges – including from the pandemic – we need to ensure that our universities are being supported in building on an already strong record of research collaboration with institutions from across the UK.

“We know that this can generate enormous benefits in terms of spin-off economic activity, often leading to growth in well-paid jobs in areas like the knowledge and advanced manufacturing sectors.

“Scottish universities, and those across the UK, are renowned throughout the world for their strengths in research and innovation.

“Now is the time to deepen and expand our collaborations so that we emerge from the pandemic in a position to create new jobs, new businesses and new opportunities.”

However, Mr Lochhead, who represents Moray for the SNP, hit back, challenging Mr Halcro Johnston and his Tory colleagues to stop the "huge damage" he said would be caused to universities by Brexit.

He continued: “Although Tory MSPs are perfectly entitled to ask questions of SNP Ministers, I’m surprised Mr Halcro Johnstone isn’t devoting his energies towards persuading his own colleagues in the UK Government to stop the huge damage that Brexit and this Tory Government are inflicting on our university and research sectors.

“Our colleges, universities and research institutes are all going to be hit hard by Brexit, which will lead to less funding and will put off prospective researchers and students coming to Scotland.

“UHI is the perfect example of the benefits of EU membership for our colleges and universities – our local university was helped greatly by EU funds to get off the ground.

“This MSP and his party are taking a wrecking ball to further and higher education with their pursuit of a Brexit that we didn’t vote for. We’re four years on from the EU referendum and only weeks away from a possible no deal exit, and the Scottish Government is still waiting for clarity on the UK Government’s plans to ensure that Scotland doesn’t lose out financially.”

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