Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson accused of ignoring UK Government contribution to pioneering Edinburgh project

Tories have accused Constitution and Culture Secretary Angus Robertson of failing to acknowledge UK government funding for a cutting edge research centre building robots and aiming to make Edinburgh the data capital of Europe.

Wednesday, 25th August 2021, 4:55 am

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Mr Robertson, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central, praised Edinburgh University’s Bayes Centre in his Evening News column last week, highlighting its leading role in data science and artificial intelligence, “not only bringing technological advancement but also raising ethical questions about the use of such technology in our daily lives”.

He described being shown around the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, based at the centre, and meeting a Nasa Valkyrie Robot – one of only three in the world – which is being developed that one day it could be sent to Mars.

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Angus Robertson's column in the Evening News last week

Mr Robertson continued: “A partnership of the Scottish government, the Bayes Centre and others aims to make Edinburgh the data capital of Europe, creating 50,000 new jobs, upskilling 100,000 people and adding up to £5bn to the economy over the next 15 years.”

But the Tories pointed out the funding for the Bayes Centre came from Edinburgh’s City Region Deal, with around £30m for the project from the UK Government and £2m from the Scottish Government.

Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said: “Everyone welcomes Edinburgh striving to be at the heart of technological advances going forward. However, Angus Robertson clearly used this piece to try and pull the wool over people’s eyes.

“It was completely disingenuous of him to fail to mention that the overwhelming majority of funding for the Bayes Centre came from the UK Government.

Professor Sethu Vijayakumar, director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, with robot Valkyrie.

“This is just one of the projects in this region that is benefiting from almost £300 million worth of UK Government investment in data driven hubs. Specifically, the UK Government has invested £30.31 million in the Bayes Centre compared with £2.24 million from the Scottish Government as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.

“The growth deal for this region and others right across the country are a perfect example of both Scotland’s government’s working together to deliver jobs and investment in the heart of our communities. It is a crying shame Angus Robertson couldn’t bring himself to highlight that in his column.

“As we recover from the pandemic, it is crucial that the SNP government works with the UK Government to have a full focus on rebuilding our communities, and ensuring projects like the Bayes Centre are a resounding success.”

A spokesperson for Mr Robertson said: “This project was possible thanks to many organisations including the Scottish Government, Edinburgh University, Edinburgh City Council and indeed the UK Government. The largest investment, however, is the time, money and sheer brainpower of the researchers, businesses and staff of the Bayes Centre. They do world-leading work for the good of humanity. We should not detract from this with political point scoring.”

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