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Scottish independence 'would weaken' UK life sciences sector

Pharma leaders say Yes vote would hold industry back

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Industry leaders have voiced their support for Scotland to remain within the United Kingdom ahead of Thursday's independence referendum.

Speaking at a panel discussion last week Dr Eliot Forster, executive chair of London's MedCity initiative, said: “In order to compete nationally, we need to be at one as a nation.”

He added: “It is possible to boost economic growth through life sciences. I travel north often and can see the promise the north has to offer outside of the golden triangle of Oxford, Cambridge and London.”

His words were echoed by the UK's recently appointed life sciences minister George Freeman, who said the union was important for those both north and south of the border.

Speaking at the discussion panel organised by comms agency Hanover, Freeman highlighted the £400m spent by Westminster on Scottish bio science studies which he claims would be lost if the pro-independence campaign win the referendum.

Also voicing concerns about the referendum's outcome at the event was Professor Ian Greer, who chairs the Northern Health Science Alliance, a partnership between universities and NHS hospital trusts in the North of England.

Greer said: “The importance focused on the 'golden triangle' of UK bioscience does the north a disservice. I truly believe we are better together.”

Pharma concern about the implications of a 'yes' vote is not surprising due to Scotland's importance as a clinical hub. The country is home to nearly 150 pharma services and supply companies and is responsible for around 60% of Europe's biopharma testing.

However, top-level health policy decision is said to have all but halted in Scotland in the last six months as politicians on both sides of the border wait for the referendum's outcome before setting out their future plans.

In the final days before the vote, opinion polls show that outcome is too close to call - a realisation that has pushed several business sectors to act. The Royal Bank of Scotland last week confirmed it had contingency plans to relocate its registered headquarters to England if Scotland votes in favour of independence, while retailers such as Asda and Marks & Spencer have warned a 'yes' vote would push prices up.

Article by
Kirstie Pickering

15th September 2014

From: Healthcare

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