The decision of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (JRRT) to provide financial assistance to Alistair Carmichael MP in relation to the recent court case brought by four of his constituents has understandably proved to be controversial.
However, the non-charitable JRRT continues to be confused with the charitable Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). Whilst JRF has released a statement pointing out that these are wholly separate and independent organisations, there have been claims made on social media that the JRF is now “tainted”, simply because it shared same benefactor who died 91 years ago.
As academics at Scottish universities, we wish to make clear the value of JRF to research and policy development in Scotland. JRF is a major funder of research on poverty, housing, neighbourhoods and other aspects of social policy. It plays a vital role in providing politically impartial analysis, and helps to counter the London-centric nature of debate emanating from many of the London-based think tanks. For example, last week JRF published its annual monitor of progress in tackling poverty and social exclusion in Scotland. Its manifesto on tackling poverty in Scotland, published in February, includes evidenced support for policies including enhanced childcare, affordable housing and financial inclusion.
Since JRF was established in its current form in 1988, it has provided millions of pounds of research funding to Scottish universities. Its reputation for placing trust in early career researchers has helped to launch many research careers. Since the financial crisis, it has helped us to maintain a critical mass of research at a time when grants from government departments have all but disappeared. In 2014 JRF provided financial assistance to help the Scottish universities to host an international housing conference that was opened by Nicola Sturgeon and attracted more than 500 participants.
It is therefore vital to the health of policy debate in Scotland that the work of JRF is not undermined by misleading statements falsely suggesting that it is responsible in any way for the actions of the JRRT.
PROFESSOR MARK STEPHENS (HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY)
PROFESSOR NICK BAILEY (UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW)
PROFESSOR SUZANNE FITZPATRICK (HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY)
PROFESSOR ANNETTE HASTINGS (UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW)
PROFESSOR DUNCAN MACLENNAN CBE (ST ANDREWS UNIVERSITY)
DR GINA NETTO (HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY)
PROFESSOR DOUGLAS ROBERTSON (STIRLING UNIVERSITY)
DR BETH WATTS (STIRLING UNIVERSITYHERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY)