SCOTLAND’S Universities Minister has warned that research funding for institutions is “under threat” from Brexit.

Richard Lochhead told MSPs that the country has been left “in the dark” by the UK Government on the future of research funding and exchange opportunities, when the Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year.

A downbeat Mr Lochhead said: “I hoped to come to Parliament to report real and encouraging progress with the post-Brexit arrangements to continue our relationship with the EU and to outline how Scotland will benefit from successor schemes.

“Instead, I have to say that we remain largely in the dark and all the benefits we’ve enjoyed in decades remain under serious threat as we head towards the end of the year.

“There remains little clarity from the UK Government on what they’re thinking or what they hope to achieve by then, and as we all know the clock is ticking.”

Mr Lochhead warned that less funding will be available to colleges, universities and researchers, who he said could be “put off” coming to Scotland because of the end of the relationship with the EU.

READ MORE: Scottish Labour accuses SNP of defunding universities

Earlier this week, Scottish Labour accused the Scottish Government of defunding universities after it emerged it now spends £1,089 less per student than when the SNP came into office in 2007.

Scotland’s universities were today told they will receive a £10.15 million investment for adapting and improving their research laboratories as part of an £88 million UK-wide scheme. The investment will support work on research challenges such as climate change and Covid-19.

Mr Lochhead also criticised the treatment of the Scottish Government in deciding what will be done about educational programmes such as Erasmus and Horizon 2020 – which offers research grants.

He said: “The devolved administrations have been left in the waiting room outside while the UK Treasury, the Department of Education and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are inside Whitehall offices deciding the fate of these hugely important programmes.”

The Universities Minister added the Scottish Government will “do all we can to protect Scotland’s interests and prevent the UK Government from inflicting untold damage on the relationship with Europe.”

Mr Lochhead announced in July that EU students will have to pay tuition fees from next year, although those currently studying will have the remainder of their courses covered.

Scottish Conservative education spokesman, Jamie Greene, asked Mr Lochhead whether the money saved from scrapping free tuition for EU students will go towards lifting the cap on Scottish students allowed at university.

Mr Lochhead responded: “We have already said that money remains within the higher education budget.”