THE First Minister has urged Rishi Sunak to end the “needless uncertainty” surrounding the UK’s involvement in a top European research programme.

A renegotiated deal for the UK to continue its involvement in the EU’s €100 billion Horizon Europe programme has been drafted yet reportedly still awaits the Prime Minister’s sign-off.

Writing for the Times Higher Education magazine, Humza Yousaf praised the benefits of the programme for Scotland and criticised Sunak for leaving institutions “in limbo”.

He said: “The major challenges facing us in the 21st century are international in nature – and they require international solutions.

“The idea that the UK would purposefully choose to limit these potentially game-changing collaborations defies all logic – and puts isolationist ideology before the public good.

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“The UK Government’s intransigence on Horizon association doesn’t just risk causing further damage to Scotland’s research and innovation sector – it could mean that the incredible knowledge and expertise of researchers in Scotland cannot play their full part in tackling the major global challenges facing our planet.”

The First Minister said denying Scotland access to the programme would be a “huge price to pay” to appease the “extreme Brexiteers” in the Conservative party.

Horizon Europe is the successor to the Horizon 2020 programme, which ran from 2014 to 2020.

During the lifespan of Horizon 2020 Scotland’s universities received nearly €900 million in funding, which went towards projects such as research into tidal energy, preventing Alzheimer’s, and designing antibodies to treat Covid-19.

It is hoped that the Horizon Europe programme will promote breakthroughs in pressing areas such as climate change, cancer treatment and biodiversity.

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Following a recent trip to Brussels, Yousaf said he wrote to the Prime Minister to call on him to provide assurances that the UK will be associated with the programme.

“Scotland voted decisively to remain in the EU and to continue to work in partnership with our neighbours on the continent, only to be ripped out of Europe against our will, with all the economic, social and cultural damage that entails.

“Even full UK association to Horizon will not repair the damage caused by Brexit – but it will at least stop any more being inflicted. Every day that the Prime Minister delays further diminishes the UK’s reputation in Europe.”

He added that independence and a return to EU membership was the best way for Scotland to fully involve itself with research communities across the continent and work towards common goals. 

In July, SNP MP Alyn Smith also wrote to the Prime Minister after an expected announcement on the UK rejoining the scheme did not materialise.