I have 40 years experience of working in the NHS and 30 years experience of attracting research funding. I have written this to raise awareness of the effect that splitting up the UK would have on medical research in Scotland. Please take time to read it and think about it.
The biggest challenge facing the NHS is not waiting lists or ‘time to treatment’ targets but the lack of knowledge about many really serious conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, schizophrenia and cancer. For these patients there is very little that can be offered. We need more knowledge. Anyone who really cares about sufferers of conditions like these and who wants Scotland to continue to make an impact cannot vote to separate us from our current UK infrastructure, which is effective and has evolved over decades. Scottish researchers are thriving in this setting and are able to engage in pioneering work. Scotland is a fabulous place for clinical trials, but our contribution to new ground‐breaking knowledge is boosted by the collective strength of expertise in the larger UK setting.
Funding medical research
The position of the Yes campaign is set out in the SNP’s Guide to an Independent Scotland. “Scotland will pay our way within the common research area, and contribute to arrangements for research funding through the existing Research Councils.” These are UK Councils. That is unlikely to change and even a protracted period of negotiation over this would have a crippling effect on the research base within Scotland. Independence would be a disaster, not just because of the potential reduction in direct income, but, more critically, because of the breakdown in infrastructure that underpins so many partnerships set up by the UK Research Councils and Foundations such as the British Heart Foundation. This is vital for pioneering research into illnesses for which there is still insufficient knowledge.
Healthcare and the economy
Both the NHS and medical research rely on state funding and so they are critically dependent on a thriving economy. Of course there are economic projections on both sides, but those of us who care passionately about healthcare and medical research are strongly opposed to taking what would be an enormous leap of faith. This would put the finances and infrastructure that underpin medical research at risk.
A vote to keep the UK intact will help us to develop new treatments by sustaining the world leading medical research infrastructure established over decades. If you plan to vote Yes to get rid of the current UK Government that’s short term politics with very long term consequences. Please be open-minded enough to listen to what leading medical researchers in Scotland are saying. These are people who are generally not political activists. However they do have experience of venturing into the unknown. That’s what research is. In doing this they weigh up the options. They are genuinely trying to improve knowledge of serious medical conditions. Please listen to them. They are virtually unanimous in supporting a vote to keep the UK intact. If you really care about those suffering from conditions where effective treatments have not yet been discovered please think very carefully about this and vote “No thank you” in the referendum.
Professor David Wyper writing on behalf of medical researcher colleagues around Scotland
Professor Wyper is a former Director of the Clinical Physics Department of Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board