Open Minds on Independence #15: The best way to future-proof Scotland’s economic system

EARLIER this week we checked out Scotland’s success as an innovation nation and why we want independence to assist our nation attain its full potential as a pioneering economic system. Everybody is aware of about Scotland’s oil and gasoline, its unbelievable meals trade and the sheer exporting may of the Scotch whisky sector.

Nonetheless, quickly rising new and high-tech industries are additionally driving Scotland’s economic system which is definitely extra various than the remainder of the UK which is much extra depending on finance than Scotland is on oil and gasoline, for instance. In the present day we have a look at three key Scottish industrial sectors the place innovation is paying dividends and the threats they face …


Life sciences is a wide-ranging trade encompassing prescription drugs, biomedical science, medical biotechnology, environmental sciences and even some meals processing. Principally, these are the sciences that should do with organisms, comparable to human beings, vegetation and animals.

Though there are life sciences companies throughout the nation, it’s an particularly essential trade in Tayside. Dundee College’s position in life sciences analysis helps 16% of all jobs on Tayside. Dundee College was ranked as essentially the most influential scientific analysis establishment for prescription drugs on the planet for the interval 2006-16, forward of the likes of the Massachusetts Institute of Know-how and the College of California Berkeley. Edinburgh College was additionally within the high 10.

Round 770 corporations make use of greater than 41,000 individuals on this sector in Scotland. The trade physique, Life Sciences Scotland, expects the Scottish life science cluster to achieve a turnover of £Eight billion by 2025, which makes it a key sector in Scotland’s future economic system.

This sector’s turnover is already greater than £5.2bn per yr. Life sciences skilled a 52% development in turnover between 2010 and 2016 and a 16% employment development.

The life sciences sector is a serious exporter and is very linked to EU analysis and European networks for collaboration. Nonetheless, it’s one in all numerous financial sectors which is struggling considerably from the consequences of Brexit, as a result of the UK not has entry to lots of the advantages of the EU system, together with the centralised process for market authorisations, the portal for medical trials and the pharmacovigilance database.

There is no such thing as a additional mutual recognition of crop safety product advertising and marketing purposes. Importing supplies and entry to expert European labour has additionally been affected – that is prone to lower international direct funding.

Key details:

– Scotland possesses one of many largest life sciences clusters in Europe and has the most important group of animal bioscience and aquaculture researchers, with greater than 1000 researchers

– Veterinary science in Scotland wins greater than 50% of UK veterinary funding. Scotland is famend for its veterinary science experience, with its two veterinary faculties at Edinburgh and Glasgow universities ranked first and second within the UK. Virtually a 3rd of the UK’s veterinary graduates are educated in Scotland annually

– Scientists on the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh have been the primary on the planet to clone a mammal, which was famously named Dolly the Sheep. The institute has helped generate annual productiveness positive aspects of £247m via its breeding and genetics analysis

– In Scotland, 170 life science start-ups with a hit charge of 85% have been created between 2009-15

READ MORE: Open Minds on Independence #14: How indy can enhance our innovation nation standing


Digital industries is a comparatively new time period that captures the evolving nature of know-how within the economic system. It blends collectively the older idea of Info and Communications Know-how (ICT) corporations and people that aren’t particularly ICT however function within the dynamic digital economic system. That features:

– E-commerce and e-business

– Supporting infrastructure ({hardware}, software program, telecom, communications gear)

– Software program publishing for enterprise operations

– Software program publishing for leisure, e.g. the digital video games trade

– On-line publishing of knowledge and knowledge

– The digital sector is predicted to turn into the quickest rising trade in Scotland as much as 2024, at 38% development in Gross Worth Added (GVA) phrases. That’s twice as quick as the expected development charge of the general economic system (17.5%). That is predicted to achieve a goal of £5.2bn GVA in 2024, which is able to create new and extremely expert jobs

The newest accessible figures exhibit that roughly 9500 tech corporations registered in Scotland in 2018. The sector is rising so rapidly that it’s predicted to create an additional 12,800 highly-skilled jobs per yr.

Persevering with that development of digital industries is vital to the long run prosperity of Scotland. Some 80% of Scotland’s tech corporations anticipate to make use of extra individuals within the coming years. Nonetheless, the industries’ development is outstripping the availability of expert employees and a 3rd of corporations say they discover it a problem to recruit the individuals they should continue to grow. Brexit is making these difficulties even worse.

Key details:

– Edinburgh was the quickest rising tech hub within the UK in 2017 and has been ranked essentially the most energetic tech and information innovation metropolis within the UK after London

– The variety of corporations in Scotland’s digital video games sector soared 1800% between 2008 and 2019

– Scotland’s software program growth sector consists of round 7500 corporations using greater than 42,000 individuals and that sector grew 90% within the decade main as much as 2017

– The digital video games trade has 1537 full-time video games growth workers and helps one other 2810 jobs

– 75% of Scottish digital tech corporations boosted their gross sales in 2018, in contrast with 68% in 2017


The area trade is a fast-growing a part of the broader aerospace sector, which incorporates defence and is estimated to be price £6.4bn to the Scottish economic system. The area sector is the most important section, contributing £2.6bn gross home product (GDP) to the Scottish economic system straight and as a lot as one other £1bn via its provide chain.

Area industries are of rising significance to Scotland, the place about 20% of all of the UK’s space-related jobs are based mostly. There are roughly 132 space-related organisations working in Scotland, 83 of that are headquartered right here – a 27% improve on the earlier yr. The area sector in Scotland helps 7500 jobs, creating on common 300 jobs a yr. The Scottish Authorities expects the area sector to be price £4bn by 2030.

It ought to come as no shock that the most important risk to this sector is Brexit. Though membership of the European Area Company (ESA) shouldn’t be tied to EU membership, no grants to encourage area analysis and growth (R&D) have ever been given to a rustic outdoors of the European Financial Space (EEA), which consists of EU and EFTA members.

Sutherland in Scotland has been named as the situation for the UK’s first spaceport, though an objection has been lodged and a judicial evaluation listening to is anticipated. AstroAgency, which has its headquarters in Scotland, has gained funding from the UK Area Company to ascertain an area hub on behalf of the Scottish Area Management Council (SSLC), and Prestwick Airport has obtained £80m to allow space-related actions.

Key details:

– Scotland, with 8.2% of the UK inhabitants, employs practically 20% of the UK’s area sector

– The UK Area Company shortlisted six Scottish places out of eight for horizontal launch spaceports, demonstrating that Scotland has the very best launch areas for reaching key satellites

– Glasgow builds extra satellites than every other European metropolis

Our economic system appears to be proving remarkably resilient within the face of Westminster’s lack of re-investment, Brexit and being half of a bigger UK whose authorities doesn’t focus its enterprise, financial and innovation insurance policies on Scotland’s wants. There is no such thing as a benefit to Scotland’s economic system – its outdated established sectors and its – rising fast-growth industries that might not be bettered by a targeted industrial technique from a authorities concentrating on their wants from Scotland for Scotland.

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