Northern Ireland cannot afford to fall further behind Scotland and Wales, warns the RSC

22 May 2012

Northern Ireland's economy is in danger of slipping further behind Scotland and Wales if it fails to secure a Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA), the Royal Society of Chemistry warned today.

Making the right decisions for Northern Ireland on issues such as fracking, dementia and agricultural productivity are vital for driving economic growth. The RSC, and leading politicians, are calling on ministers to follow the examples of Wales and Scotland and appoint a CSA. 

By providing a single line of clear and coherent scientific advice for MLAs and the business and scientific community, a CSA will aid Northern Ireland in boosting its economy.

Following the second meeting at Stormont yesterday of the All Party Group on Science and Technology, Basil McCrea MLA, also backed the RSC's advice. Mr McCrea, who leads the APG on Science and Technology this week, said Northern Ireland was losing out by not having a chief scientific adviser. 

"If we are serious about making our economy a strong, growing modern economy we need someone at the top table to champion skills, science and industry," he added. "Scotland and Wales have shown the difference that makes. The first minister and deputy first minister can't let Northern Ireland slip behind."

Northern Ireland is currently second bottom of the 12 UK areas by Gross Value Added (GVA), the measure in economics of the value of goods and services produced in an area, industry or sector of an economy.

England's GVA per head is 20,974, Scotland's 20,220 whereas Northern Ireland's is just 15,651, according to the most recent figures in 2010. Only Wales has a lower GVA in the UK at 15,145 but with the largest increase in GVA in 2010 at 3.3% is thought now to have overtaken Northern Ireland. 

Clare Viney, director of communications and external relations at the RSC, echoed the call: "Stormont is the last of the devolved administrations without a Chief Scientific Adviser. Delaying the inevitable will only hamper Northern Ireland in its bid to haul itself out of the recession. It needs to get itself up off the bottom of the GVA table and a CSA will help the country do just that."

The APG is a vital tool for raising awareness among MLAs of important developments in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, both technological and educational and how policy issues impact upon these areas. The RSC is just one of the professional bodies on a forum established to support the APG.

"The APG will achieve this by holding focused meetings, with debates opened by guest speakers who are active in the fields of interest," Viney added.

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