The decision we make next year in the independence referendum will shape our country not just for the next few years, but forever.
This is not just another election we are being asked to vote in. It is too important to sit on the side lines. As an academic, for me it is about what impact independence would have on our world-leading universities.
We are a nation of innovators. Scotland is respected around the globe for our creativity, our ingenuity and the ground-breaking research we do. Over the years, the outstanding contribution of Scots in the fields of chemistry, medicine, physics and physiology have been recognised with numerous Nobel Prizes - most recently, Prof Higgs. Our contribution has been truly inspirational. Our universities are among the very best in the world. With five universities in the world's top 200, Scotland has more top universities per head of population than any other nation. That is a record to be proud of.
Devolution is delivering for Scotland's universities. Right now we can have the best of both worlds: a strong and successful Scottish Parliament with powers over education policy, together with the strength of being part of a larger, thriving UK research community.
Strength comes from the large, highly integrated, internationally renowned UK research base. That means we can invest in the world-leading high-tech - and often high-cost - infrastructure that our researchers demand if we are to remain at the cutting edge. It means those costs are spread over 60 million people, instead of five million. It means we all benefit from the billions of pounds the UK invests in technology, the laboratories, the materials and the space research demands.
For hundreds of years researchers in Scotland have worked collaboratively with leading researchers from across the whole of the United Kingdom. This two-way, cross-border collaboration has been absolutely fundamental to Scotland and the rest of the UK's success for centuries. The absence of barriers allows not just funding and people, but ideas and innovation, to flow freely across borders.
It is this two-way, cross-border collaboration together with our unified labour market that unlocks opportunities and allows our researchers to move easily across the UK to follow ideas, not be bound by borders. It makes Scotland an attractive place for academics to live and work and for students from all over the world to come to Scotland to study.
UK research funding is allocated on the basis of excellence through competitive peer review process, irrespective of where in the UK the research takes place. It is an essential ingredient in the success of Scottish research. The competitive UK-wide peer review system inspires innovation, drives up standards and stimulates not just great but the very best ideas. The UK approach ensures a joined up approach across the UK. It means we avoid wasteful duplication, and ensures research delivers value for money. Why put that at risk with the Nationalists' plans for independence?
Scottish universities also benefit from a disproportionate share of funding from UK Research Councils. Scotland makes up 8.4% of the UK population yet we receive over 13% of funding.
After 50 years in the worlds of academia and medical research, 46 of them in Scotland, I have seen at first hand the benefits of being part of the larger UK. I would hate to see our world-leading reputation for innovation and discovery put at risk. I'd hate to see the next big breakthrough jeopardised or see a young researcher's chances curtailed.
That's why I am proud to have joined Academics Together - a new group of individuals who believe that our world-leading scientists, researchers and universities benefit from being part of the UK.
We have achieved so much working together across the UK. We can achieve so much more together than we ever could apart. We owe it to the next generation to get this decision right.
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