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Salmond makes independence pitch to Scotland’s researchers

Researchers in an independent Scotland would have an opportunity to shape the kind of research and industrial policies their nation needs to become more prosperous, Alex Salmond, Scotland's first minister, has said.

Economic Policy Choices in an Independent Scotland, a 200-page document published on 19 November, outlines policy options for more economic prosperity in an independent Scotland. In the document, which puts R&D at the core of Scotland’s industrial development, the first minister appeals to researchers, saying their skills are critical for the national interest.

According to Salmond, many large businesses operating in Scotland have been taken over by UK companies, leading to budgets and functions being determined outside the country.

Salmond also said he believes that more could be invested in research in Scotland and that this would happen in an independent Scotland. Policy options being considered to encourage innovation include tax incentives, such as credits, allowances and payroll tax reductions.

“As a devolved administration, whose role and remit is limited by the UK government, such fundamental decisions on the shape of the economy and society lie outside the direct control of Scotland,” the document says.

This is the first time that the first minister has explained the case for independence in public, to a group that includes many who fear that independence will damage the nation’s research base if access to UK funding sources is lost. This argument was repeated most recently in a report commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. More such arguments are likely to emerge in the coming weeks and months as other UK government departments release the findings of their own reviews into Scottish independence.

Salmond moved to quash some of these concerns by saying that Scotland would be a more welcoming country to the world’s best researchers, in contrast to the more restrictive approach adopted to international visitors coming to the UK.