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A look at the Scottish and Welsh programmes for government

23 Sep 2016

CaSE intern Tom Denbigh examines the recently published plans for government for Scotland and Wales

After the summer break, the Welsh and Scottish Governments have drawn up their programmes for Government. These document lay out their actions for the next few years but what lies in store for science and engineering?


As to be expected there is a strong focus on education, and the attainment gap from income inequality is highlighted with the extension of the pupil deprivation grant. While there is little specific reference to subject it is good to see commitments of £100 million on school standards, and £2 billion on new school infrastructure. The only subject specific mention focuses on digital fluency and coding skills, which will help create a generation with the needed technical skills for emerging STEM fields.

For higher education, the programme highlights protection of research grants and is wary of the impact of Brexit, looking to build closer relationships with the universities to “help sell Wales to the world”. Improvements for universities include a focus on increasing links between education and industry, and highlights academic and vocational routes into education, which CaSE has previously highlighted as key areas for improvement.

In broader infrastructure policy there is a strong focus on green economy and renewables which is promising for new tech start-ups. This includes the promotion of and green hubs focused around existing education establishments, and supports emerging green tech. Emissions reduction and biodiversity protection are also highlighted which may drive the creation of more STEM jobs.

Finally, we are pleased to see government recognizing the importance of evidence based policy making (for opposition to fracking) and we hope this will expand across the board.


The Scottish programme focuses strongly on education, with a highlight on digital skills. With the Scottish remain vote, there is an inevitable focus on maintaining European relationships in education and business and they highlight a potential second Scottish independence referendum.

For business and investment, the programme concentrates on preserving EU funding and developing enterprise and research in key Scottish areas of strength. This includes funding underpinning research in oil and gas. Government support for emerging businesses is especially directed towards supporting technology intensive firms and there is strong focus on support for green technologies.

Primary education commitments in the programme focus mainly on literacy and numeracy with a consultation on STEM teaching to be conducted in Autumn of this year. Specific funding at primary and secondary is mostly for education in deprived areas (e.g. £150 million on schools based on deprivation and free school meal eligibility). STEM is stressed as the focus for future further education places, £1.3 million is earmarked for support of higher education research while £1 billion is committed for general investment in universities in the upcoming year. There is strong emphasis throughout on maintaining strong EU and business connections for universities.

As was highlighted by CaSE in May the post of chief scientific advisor had been vacant for over a year. In June however this was remedied with the appointment of Professor Sheila Rowan an experimental physicist who compliments the other two main scientific posts in Scotland of Chief Scientist (Health) and Chief Scientific Adviser (Rural Affairs, Food and Environment). The new CSA will be funding six new PhDs on motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis. The government has also appointed a new research manager for sexual health, and a moratorium on “unconventional oil and gas” i.e. fracking, until further research is conducted. This is an encouraging and we hope that this is a step forward to Scottish government using an increasingly evidence-informed approach in policy making.

A selection and summary of key STEM related goals and commitments laid out in the documents


On investment in science and engineering

  • Business Accelerator Scheme for welsh businesses investment and job creation
  • Promote tech hubs, especially in towns and cities where there are colleges and universities
  • Promote sustainable jobs for the future
  • Support the development of more renewable energy projects, including tidal lagoons and community energy schemes
  • Invest in green economy skill development, and promote green growth and innovation
  • Invest in digital technologies to help speed up the diagnosis of illness
  • Establish a National Infrastructure Commission to provide increased certainty and sustainability for investment in
the future

On science and engineering education and skills

  • Create 100,000 apprenticeships
  • Invest an additional £100 million to drive up school standards over the next term
  • Continue to develop a new curriculum to ensure young people have the skills, knowledge and experiences they need to help develop the creativity and broader understanding of the world needed to be confident, rounded and outward looking
  • Support the roll-out of digital competence in schools and develop coding skills in young people
  • Prioritise support for enhanced links between education and industry,
  • Promote and enhance academic and vocational routes into and through further and higher education
  • Better utilise relationships with Welsh universities to help sell Wales to the world following the Brexit vote – and work with the sector to ensure protection for students, and important research grants.
  • Consult further on the specific recommendations of the Hazelkorn review

On the use of science and engineering in government

  • Make progress towards goal of reducing greenhouse emissions by at least 80% by 2050 and continue work to protect and enhance biodiversity and local ecosystems
  • Continue to invest in flood defense work and take further action to better manage water
  • Continue opposition to fracking, based on evidence


On investment in science and engineering

  • Develop an innovation prize to reward, and invest in, world class innovation in Scottish companies
  • Chief Scientist Adviser will fund three new PhDs in Motor Neurone Disease, and three in Multiple Sclerosis.
  • £12.5 million will be made available for oil and gas innovation and business support, as well as £10 million of Scottish Enterprise funding to help firms reduce risks associated with carrying out research and development
  • Strong focus on the strength of the life-sciences in Scotland
  • Aim to protect the £15.2 million funding from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund supporting research, development and structural reform of the fisheries

On science and engineering education and skills

  • Launch of a STEM strategy consultation for education
  • Encourage the development of digital skills
  • Invest £1 billion in universities in 2016-17
  • STEM focus in further education
  • 26,000 modern apprenticeships moving to 30,000 by 2020
  • Support university research and boost collaboration between academia and business
  • Maintain free tuition for Scottish students attending Scottish institutions
  • Support study abroad opportunities and research collaborations with the rest of the EU. Aim to maintain access to EU funding.
  • £1.3 million for Higher Education research, with match-funding from UK Government
  • Making Maths Count Group; recommendations for increasing Maths enthusiasm to be delivered

On the use of science and engineering in government

  • Appointment of a new research manager for sexual health
  • Moratorium on unconventional oil and gas until further research
  • Investing half a billion pounds in energy efficiency
  • Pilot support for CIVTECH; a public sector technology accelerator