Top Scots scientist warns of brain drain following Yes vote


A TOP Scots scientist has warned that many of his colleagues will flee south in the event of a “Yes” vote.

Professor Sir Philip Cohen is one of the UK’s leading biochemists and has decided to ‘speak out’ about the damage he believes independence will cause to the academic world in Scotland.

He predicts many of his colleagues at Dundee University will jump ship in the event of a Yes vote.

Dundee is an institution long established as one of Britain’s top scientific research centres.

He told his local newspaper: “I don’t feel I can sit back any longer without speaking out.

“This is serious for higher education in Scotland and it is serious for Dundee University.”

Professor Cohen has been credited as a front-runner in Europe for his research in the industry, combining academia and the pharmaceutical industry.

He is responsible for the development of new drug treatments, fighting crippling illnesses such as cancer, Parkinsons and rheumatoid arthritis.

He says the big issues lie with funding and support from the UK.

The University’s College of Life Sciences received over £100m in funds last year, 80% of which came from outside Scotland.

And he believes Dundee University has thrived under the existing system.

He said: “Cutting off the millions of pounds that flow in from Europe would be a big issue for Scotland, and would be a big problem for Dundee University.

“A thousand scientists and support staff work in the college’s laboratories and thousands more in greater Dundee owe their positions to these scientists.”

“A lot of this money comes from the European research councils and I am astonished that this issue has not been discussed more seriously. The UK research councils are based in England and if there is Scottish independence there will presumably be seperate ones for Scotland and the rest of the UK.”

He believes the UK’s Medical Research Council could also be jeopardised and “is an efficient organisation” that he does not want to see go.

And he argues that the “absence of details” offered by the SNP is deeply concerning, and is fearful that an Independent Scotland will cripple fundamental scientific research.

“In an Independent Scotland I think there would be a danger that the government would favour schemes and investments that would produce relatively quick economic returns”, he said.

“How high a priority would be given to fundamental scientific research that might take 25 years to come into fruition?

“The absence of details about how an independent Scotland would fund research is causing uncertainty to the profession and all who work in it”.


  1. As a former medical academic who enjoyed 14 years at Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, University of Dundee, I strongly endorse Sir Philip’s comments. While I worked in Scotland I was fortunate to receive funding from the UK Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and Action Research – all based in England – as well as from the Chief Scientist at the Scottish Home and Health Department in Edinburgh. Clinical academics who still work in Scotland have told me that they will leave for England or overseas if there is a Yes vote for independence. The SNP has not explained satisfactorily how it would protect Dundee and other centres of medical excellence in Scotland from substantial losses in funding and scientific talent.

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