Government rejects calls from MPs for greater Scottish representation in research body

Written by Louise Wilson on 28 April 2022 in News

Recommendations from a parliamentary committee for dedicated boardroom space at UKRI are unheeded

Credit: Nick Youngson/Alpha Stock Images/CC BY-SA 3.0

The government has rejected a recommendation from MPs to increase Scottish representation within UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The Scottish Affairs Committee called for more Scottish involvement within the ogranisation – a public body backed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which oversees the provision of funding for research and development initiatives in the fields of technology, data, science and innovation. In a report published last year, MPs recommended the inclusion of a dedicated seat on the board for a Scottish representative.

The government response to the report said appointees to the board were “not recruited to represent any constituency, sector or regional grouping”. It added UKRI obtained understanding of regional diversity by “regular engagement and collaboration with the devolved administrations and their delivery bodies”.

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The committee also recommended that the UK government “should not block” efforts by the Scottish government to continue participation in the Erasmus+ student exchange programme and to expand the Turing Scheme – through which UK institutions can offer students the chance to study or work overseas – to facilitate further placements for international students and staff.

The EU has previously said it would not be legally possible to allow only part of a country to participate in Erasmus+.

But the government response made no commitment to future development of the Turing Scheme.

Scottish Affairs Committee chair Pete Wishart said: “Losing out on academic and research partnerships as a result of Brexit and sky-high visa fees are significantly damaging our ability to continue to attract the brightest and best. If Scottish universities are to continue punching above their weight, they need appropriate support from government.

“The UK government’s response to our report contains many words but says very little. There is no good reason why Scottish representation is lacking within decision-making at UKRI and making the UK a more competitive place for international students and academics to come is surely only a positive move.”

The committee has written to the Scottish secretary Alister Jack, seeking more information about the Turing scheme, ringfencing UKRI board seats for the devolved administrations and the UK’s continued participation in Horizon Europe.


About the author

Louise Wilson is a journalist at PublicTechnology sister publication Holyrood, where this story first appeared. She tweets as @louisewilso.

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