SEVENTY jobs are to be axed at a world-renowned farming and environmental research centre.

James Hutton Institute (JHI) in Invergowrie, near Dundee, plans to cut scientific and administrative posts as it wrestles with a £1.8 million deficit after having its government funding reduced by £2.5m over the last three years.

The news comes amid warnings more research skills could be lost to the UK if the planned takeover of pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca by Pfizer goes ahead.

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JHI management is to set up a voluntary redundancy scheme, but a spokeswoman for the company was unable to say yesterday if there would be compulsory redundancies in the event of insufficient volunteers coming forward.

The institute has 600 staff split between Invergowrie and a site in Aberdeen.

Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser said the job cuts were "worrying news" for JHI's employees.