REGULATION in Scotland’s multi-billion pound sciences sector must remain unchanged after Brexit to safeguard thousands of jobs, it is claimed.

In a letter addressed to members of parliament, industry leadership group Life Sciences Scotland says Brexit uncertainty is “having negative impacts” on firms, who fear this is “set to intensify”.

According to the body, the sector – which is closely linked to universities and covers medical technologies, pharmaceuticals, aquaculture and more – employs some 37,000 people in Scotland across 700 organisations.

The combined turnover amounts to more than £4.2 billion, with growth of around six per cent achieved annually.

However, Life Sciences Scotland says the prospect of a new regulatory framework could throw the sector off track, with the potential end of freedom of movement and free trade amongst other threats.

In an open letter, co-chair Dave Tudor – a senior member of global healthcare company GSK – has asked serving politicians to dedicated talks to secure the industry’s future.

The message says the composition of the sector in Scotland is “significantly” different than that of the rest of the UK, with medtech and diagnostics outfits accounting for almost half of activity and pharmaceuticals making up just five per cent.

Outlining the importance of the regulatory framework, the letter states that Scotland has a “strong track record of growing existing businesses, and creating and growing start-ups”, with universities creating more spin outs than any other part of the UK.

Stating that industry rules “should not diverge from EU regulation”, it states: “We would strongly resist creating a new and untried Scottish life sciences regulator when there is a long established global regulatory system.”

Calling for the continuation of “mutual recognition of testing and release” procedures between the UK and EU, it supports the initiation of a new agreement with America and says skilled experts from abroad should be able to enter the UK “at least as easily as at present”.

MPs will be invited to an event in London to discuss the issues “in more detail”

Tudor states: “Our members have indicated that the uncertainty arising from the UK Government decision to leave the European Union is already having negative impacts on these life sciences companies in Scotland, and the concern is that this is set to intensify.

“Our aim is to ensure that the Scottish Life Sciences sector continues to thrive and grow and we believe there is significant benefit in continued close partnership and collaboration with the EU for the benefit of patients and consumers globally.”

Meanwhile, cross-border research led by Strathclyde University has found that almost half of young residents from Central and European Europe have witnessed discrimination more frequently since the Brexit referendum.

The UK-wide survey took in 1,000 people and found almost 80 per cent had experienced discrimination “in some form” due to their nationality, accent or appearance.

One in five participants said experience of racism was a “frequent” occurrence and more than half said they were “worried” or “uncertain” about their future as a result of the June 2016 result.

Despite this, 75 per cent said were likely to continue living in Britain after it leaves the bloc, with just 11 per cent expecting to leave.

Around 16 per cent said they were “hopeful” about their prospects, with six per cent feeling “excited”.

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the “Here to Stay?” project also involved researchers from Plymouth and Durham universities. The findings will be presented at the Glasgow institution tomorrow as part of ESRC’s Festival of Social Science.

Study leader Dr Daniela Sime, of Strathclyde’s School of Social Work & Social Policy, said: “A rise in racism indicated in our research is a serious concern and is likely to have an impact on young people’s mental health, their sense of security and belonging, and their decisions on whether to stay in Britain in the future.

“These young people are hoping not to leave the UK, at least not in the short term, as many now think of the UK as their home and are in education or training. Nonetheless, they are sensitive to, and potentially alienated by, anti-immigration discourse and sentiment and this may affect their long-term plans. It is particularly important to them that their secure status as UK residents is confirmed at an early stage of the negotiations.”