SCOTLAND has an impressive history of innovation and pioneering entrepreneurialism. Whether it be the television or the telephone, mammal cloning or the ATM, the people of Scotland have made their mark on the modern world.

Yet as we go through the Information Revolution, the UK continues to keep the handbrake on through needless delays over joining Horizon Europe.

The seven-year Horizon Europe programme began in 2021 and will run until the end of 2027. Horizon Europe aims to promote scientific breakthroughs that will tackle the climate crisis and treat cancer, as well as reverse the degradation of nature on land and at sea among other things.

Despite only being home to around 6% of the world’s population, the EU contributes 17% of global research and development and 25% of all high-quality scientific publications. During my time in the European Parliament, I helped with developing the EU’s various research programmes over the years.

The current iteration of Horizon Europe follows the success of Horizon 2020 which saw 1.5 million collaborations from more than 150 countries, 84% of investments addressing Sustainable Development Goals and €48.2 million directed to Covid research and innovation just seven days after the first EU case was reported.

In Horizon, we see how Europe comes together to deliver improvements not only for the lives of its own citizens but for the wider body of humanity.

It is unsurprising then that more countries want to associate themselves with the €95.5 billion scheme. New Zealand concluded association negotiations at the end of last year. Canada is reportedly in advanced talks whilst Japan and South Korea are also exploring the potential benefits of association.

In Horizon Europe, the EU is demonstrating its weight as a geopolitical actor and, unsurprisingly, many want to be part of it. And, on the surface, the UK apparently wants back in. The Windsor Framework helped remove one of the UK’s self-inflicted problems on joining the scheme – yet the Prime Minister and his government seem reluctant to push through the open door.

For all of Rishi Sunak’s rhetoric about making the UK a “science superpower”, his government seems to be dragging its feet in achieving this goal.

As vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Universities Group, the feedback I hear from academics and researchers is that the single best way to do this is to rejoin Horizon Europe.

READ MORE: Alyn Smith: Brexiteers lied to us but an inquiry won't change much

It’s a point I’ve raised in a letter to Michelle Donelan, the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, as well as in Parliament at yesterday’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Questions. Uniquely in Westminster, there’s actually a cross-party consensus on getting this done. Universities Scotland is also clear that association with Horizon Europe is the best way to help the sector secure a better research future.

As Professor Iain Gillespie noted after leading a recent delegation of university leaders to Brussels, Scotland’s universities received close to €900m over the last funding programme.

Yet when I raised these facts yesterday, what was the Government’s response?

They actually tried to say the UK’s eventual association with the programme is why Scotland “is better and will flourish within the Union”.

Never mind the fact it was the same Union which took us out of Horizon Europe in the first place!

I sincerely hope we get back into Horizon Europe but we all know the reason why we left it in the first place.

Against the will of the majority of Scots, the UK Government has repeatedly denied our democratic voice to be part of Europe.

To suggest that the cause of the problem is also the solution is disingenuous – the fault for our exclusion from Horizon Europe lies squarely with the UK Government.

With independence and back in the European Union, we can ensure such mistakes are not repeated.

READ MORE: Alyn Smith: Credit to YSI for bringing us a dose of positivity

We won’t just get to be part of Horizon Europe and its successors – we will have a say in how the framework is set up, funded and delivered. Instead of asking to be let into the club, we will be an integral member who not only benefits but also contributes.

So as the world wrestles with the challenges of climate change, artificial intelligence and the energy transition, there are also opportunities to build something new, something better.

Our history has shown what Scotland’s researchers can create. Our independent future back in the EU will allow them to innovate on a scale the UK can only dream of.