The Wee Blue Book

The Facts the Papers Leave Out
The Facts the Papers Leave Out


Essentially the exact same applies to education as to health, so we’ll be very brief here.

The Scottish education system is already fully independent, but is threatened by reductions in funding in England, as English higher education moves increasingly towards funding from tuition fees rather than government spending. This is likely to reduce the Scottish block grant as a result of the Barnett Formula, putting more pressure on the Scottish Government to reintroduce fees.


Q: “But won’t universities lose UK research funding?”

A: No. Research grants aren’t awarded on the basis of where institutions are, but by how good they are. If research is currently done at a particular place, it’s because that’s where the best expertise is found, not because of constitutional politics.

Rick Rylance, the chairman of Research Councils UK, said in October 2013:

“Grants are awarded on the basis of open competition and decided through peer review by appropriate expert researchers on a project-specific basis. They are thus not allocated on the basis of location, either geographic or political.

The distribution that arises does so naturally as a function of quality. By and large, research organisations located in Scotland achieve success at a rate and to an extent that is above what one might notionally think of as an even distribution across the UK. This recognises the distinctive excellence of Scottish

The RCUK website reiterates the point:

“Research Council funds are awarded on the basis of applications made by individual researchers, which are subject to independent, expert peer review. Awards are made on the basis of the research potential and are irrespective of geographical location.”

Scottish universities get a disproportionately high share of funding not because they’re in the UK, but because they’re disproportionately good. No research body is going to divert funding away from the best researchers to inferior ones just because of a political change, and they get rather irate if you suggest that they would.

(And 74% of research funding comes from non-government sources anyway.)