Scottish independence and innovation: Former Scottish Enterprise chief calls for debate

patrick-harvie.jpg
Green leader Patrick Harvie agrees with Robert Crawford that Scotland
needs more research and innovation

Scottish independence and innovation: Former Scottish Enterprise chief calls for debate

by Jamie Mann

Former Scottish Enterprise chief Dr Robert Crawford has challenged the Scottish government to accelerate economic research and development (R&D) in Scotland.

In a press article Dr Crawford said that Scotland has “low levels of innovation” and spends less on business R&D than the other UK nations, stressing that Scots should have a “deeply serious debate about the difficult economic issues which will ensue if Scotland chooses independence.”

He said that whilst foreign investment is important, Scotland should focus on domestically created innovation – calling for “radical” changes to Scotland’s economy which would see the lowering of corporation tax and eventually low-regulation and a low-tax economy.

However, Dr Crawford warned:  “the fact is that unless we get much better at all forms of innovation then an independent Scotland will be in serious difficulty”.

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Commenting on the article, a Scottish government spokesperson told Scottish Times that there is higher employment, lower unemployment and a stronger GDP performance over the last 6 months than the UK but agreed that “much more could be achieved”.

The spokesperson said: "We are doing all we can within our current powers to stimulate growth and to provide the most supportive environment for business anywhere in the UK.

“This includes a tax relief package worth over £500mn this year, which has reduced rates for three out of five business properties in Scotland, and our plans to bring forward a further £105mn package of economic stimulus to create jobs and growth.

"This Government has consistently argued for the need for a stimulus to capital investment by the UK Government to boost the construction sector.

“Scottish GDP would have grown in Q1 2012 if not for the problems that the sector faced and that is why the Finance Secretary John Swinney has called on the Chancellor to invest an extra £5bn in capital projects, including the 'shovel ready' projects we have identified in Scotland.”

Leader of the Scottish Greens, Patrick Harvie has supported the need for research and development, but warned of the risks of lowering corporation tax and relaxing on business regulation.

Mr Harvie told Scottish Times: "Like Dr Crawford, I want to see far more research and innovation in Scotland, particularly in the low-carbon industries of the future where there are real opportunities for global leadership.

“However, a slash and burn approach towards business tax and regulation would instead do severe damage to Scotland's prospects and help fuel a global race to bottom, undermining worker welfare and funding for education.

“Instead, I have argued that we should look at how we could link social and environmental criteria to the rate of tax that companies pay in Scotland, rewarding those who are a positive force in our society."

Measuring Scottish Research and Development

The last R&D report compiled by the Scottish government gathered R&D information from 2010 and was undertaken by the business, higher education and government sectors in Scotland - published on March 28th, 2012.

The report “Gross Expenditure on Research and Development Scotland 2010” revealed that Gross Expenditure on R&D (GERD) in Scotland decreased by 3.9 percent (£76mn) between 2009 and 2010.

The report owed the decrease to reduced expenditure across all the three sectors which make up GERD:

° Business Expenditure on Research and Development (BERD): £622mn in 2010, a 3.9 percent (£25mn) decrease in real terms since 2009.
° Higher Education Expenditure on Research and Development (HERD): £968mn in 2010, a 4.0 percent (£41mn) decrease in real terms since 2009.
° Government Expenditure on Research and Development (GoveRD): £300mn in 2010, a 3.3 percent (£10mn) decrease in real terms since 2009.

In 2010, Scotland was at the top of UK countries/regions in HERD expenditure as a percentage of GDP; internationally, Scotland was third highest. However, Scotland’s BERD as a percentage of GDP ranked in the bottom quartile of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in the same period.

Other notable information brought to light by the report included the widening gap between Scottish R&D spending and EU R&D spending in 2010.

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published this page in News 2012-08-07 10:54:00 +0100