Scottish economic recovery depends on science


10 November 2010

Science is going to be the crucial factor in preventing Scotland returning to 'the economy of the past', according to the leader of the Scottish Labour party.

Iain Gray said that a change of investment priorities was needed for the nation's economic sustainability.

Speaking at the Royal Society of Chemistry's annual Science and the Parliament event, the MSP for East Lothian said: "We cannot go back to the economy of 2005. We have to instead go back to industry because they are the jobs which are sustainable for the 21st century. We have to grow in areas such as life sciences, renewable energy, energy efficiency technology and high-tech manufacturing."

Gray, a former maths and physics teacher, made an early election pledge ahead of the Scottish elections next May by saying he looked forward to continuing to work with the science community to take their common agenda forward.

Paraphrasing Albert Einstein, Gray said: "Science without politics is lame, but politics without science is blind. Science is going to be crucial to Scotland's future because it has been so important to Scotland's past."

Referring to Finland and Japan, nations that have pumped more money into research and development despite the global recession, Gray said that science in Scotland "must not get left behind".

Prior to awarding prizes in chemistry, physics and biology to schoolchildren, Gray paid tribute to school science and engineering clubs around the country. He called for more bursaries and scholarships "so that choosing these kinds of subjects is more advantageous for our economy and we have to find ways to do that".

On the issue of the impact of a rise in tuition fees on Scottish universities, all Gray said was: "We must also talk about the protection of funding to Higher Education."

Dr Richard Pike, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said he welcomed Gray's speech.

"The science community will welcome Iain Gray's views of spending more in science and industry so that Scotland can emerge stronger from the recession. Just explaining the importance of science is a failed mantra. It's now a question of real engagement with the public, discussing risks and rewards and what increased scientific investment will bring to the country."

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