Alison Culpan, ABPI’s Scotland Director, covers last week’s announcement of the Scottish Government’s programme for government and reflects on what its focus on science and innovation means for the pharmaceutical industry.
Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, has pointed to the importance of life sciences and the precision medicine sector to Scotland's future prosperity.
Immediately following MSPs return from summer recess, Ms Sturgeon set out her 'Nation of Ambition' programme for government for the coming year at the Scottish Parliament. And while there was no new policy or legislative announcements directly affecting Scotland's pharmaceutical industry, there was clear acknowledgement of the role that we are playing.
The First Minister described life sciences as being a highly innovative sector that is critical to the competitiveness of Scotland's economy. According to the Scottish Government's figures, the sector currently employs over 37,000 people, has turnover of £4.3 billion, with GVA at £2 billion. Ms Sturgeon promised to step up her government's engagement with industry and academia to support the delivery of the 'Life Sciences Strategy for Scotland', which was published jointly by industry and the Government earlier this year with the ambition of growing the sector's turnover to £8 billion by 2025.
Ministers also see opportunities from Scotland having a bigger part in medicines discovery, stating in their programme document that:
"The development of the precision medicine sector is vitally important to Scotland's future health. It will revolutionise health care, allowing specific treatments to be tailored to the individual characteristics of each patient. Scotland has outstanding strengths in this area and we will continue to build on these to assist the commercialisation of world-class research in precision medicine and genomics sequencing."
To feed the growing life sciences sector, the Scottish Government also promised to deliver its STEM commitments, working across every stage in education to nurture more people into science, technology, engineering and maths careers.
In health, new legislation was promised to enshrine safe NHS staffing in law, starting with nursing and midwifery; to lift the 1% pay rise cap for NHS staff; to extend free personal care to those under 65 with degenerative illnesses; to create a 'soft' opt-out system of organ and tissue donation; and to restrict the marketing of high fat and high sugar products.
In medicines policy, the Scottish Government has reiterated its commitment to a Single National Formulary and to delivering the recommendations of the Montgomery Review into access to new medicines.
Nicola Sturgeon also wants to begin discussions quickly on new extended tax powers for the Scottish Parliament – a move that the CBI has warned could undermine the Government's business growth ambitions.
How the programme will be paid for will now be the subject of negotiations between the SNP minority government and other parties to set a budget for the year ahead. Yet, with science, innovation and health an integral part of the First Minister's plans, the next twelve months provide the opportunity for our pharmaceutical industry be front and centre of Scotland's ambition to deliver health and wealth for everyone.