SCOTLAND must have certainty about access to European research programmes after Brexit, the Scottish Government has warned.

Higher education and science minister Richard Lochhead will meet counterparts from the Welsh administration and the UK Government tomorrow in an attempt to find a new focus for negotiations with the EU in key areas of research, education and culture.

Lochhead said: “The uncertainty of Brexit is the biggest single challenge facing the university sector – and by some margin. That is why I am seeking an urgent commitment to prioritise access to research programmes after Brexit.

“Scottish organisations have attracted over €533 million through the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme so far – more money per head than England, Wales or Northern Ireland. However, the benefit is not only financial.

“Horizon 2020 has brought about research collaborations across Europe, supported innovation in our businesses and boosted Scotland’s international reputation.”

Horizon 2020 is the biggest ever EU research and innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over seven years, 2014 to 2020.

During the 2016 EU referendum 13 university Principals in Scotland backed a Remain vote, including Professor Anton Muscatelli of Glasgow University, Sir Timothy O’Shea of Edinburgh University and Sir Ian Diamond of Aberdeen University.

Lochead said he would raise the issue of immigration at the meeting, which is also seen as crucial for universities in Scotland. He said: “In addition, freedom of movement has been hugely beneficial for Scotland and our world-class universities and the UK Government must change its position to ensure we remain a magnet for international talent.

“The best future for Scotland is to remain inside the EU, but short of that, continuing membership of the European Single Market and Customs Union is the best way to minimise the damage of Brexit and build a broad ongoing partnership.”