Independent Scotland May Lose Science Research Funds, U.K. Says

Scotland’s share of British science research funding may be at risk should the country, which cloned Dolly the Sheep, vote for independence, according to the U.K. minister for universities.

Scotland got 13 percent of research council funding last year compared with its share of the U.K. population of 8.4 percent as a result of the current integrated system of allocating spending and the quality of Scotland’s universities, David Willetts said on a visit to Edinburgh.

“The U.K. has got world-class science second only to the U.S.,” said Willetts, who was speaking at the Royal Observatory on publication of the latest British government paper on the implications of independence. “That is basically a cause for celebration and why we are better together.”

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and his Scottish National Party, which runs the semi-autonomous government in Edinburgh, have scheduled a referendum for Sept. 18, 2014, to determine whether or not Scotland quits the U.K. A poll published last week showed support for independence trailing the status quo by 18 percentage points.

Scotland has five of the world’s top 200 universities, the U.K. document said. Dolly the Sheep, the world’s first cloned animal, was created at the Roslin Institute outside Edinburgh. Peter Higgs, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics last month for his work on the Higgs boson, a theoretical particle that may explain where mass comes from, was working at Edinburgh University when he first published his theory in 1964.

While co-operation on research between an independent Scotland and the rest of the U.K. would continue, over time their interests would diverge, Willetts said.

Scotland received 257 million pounds ($411 million) of funding from the U.K.’s various research councils last year, compared with 434 million pounds from the European Union over the past six years, he said.

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