FIRST Minister Humza Yousaf has written to the Prime Minister calling on him to "urgently secure full association with the Horizon Europe research funding programme".

Horizon is the European Union's signature funding operation for business and innovation.

It has a budget of almost €100 billion. According to the European Commission website, it aims to "facilitate collaboration and strengthen the impact of research and innovation in developing, supporting and implementing EU policies while tackling global challenges".

The news comes as Downing Street has said that, as of yet, a “deal has not been agreed” between the UK and the EU on the Horizon Europe research programme.

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The First Minister said that "full association to Horizon Europe is vital" for Scotland.

In a letter to Rishi Sunak, he wrote: "I welcome the news that constructive discussions are taking place.

"I would ask that you show the necessary leadership required and take a broad and holistic view of the undoubted benefits arising from our participation in the programme, rather than a narrow, political calculation.

He continued: "I urge you to agree a deal with the EU now to secure our future in Horizon Europe through full association. 

"We have a welcome opportunity to improve our relationship with our European neighbours and to remove this needless uncertainty for Scotland’s universities and research community.

"It is vital that we take that opportunity, and ensure that Brexit is not allowed to damage these sectors further."

Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman said the Prime Minister was keen to seek “value for money for taxpayers” if the UK is to rejoin the scheme, with “constructive” discussions still going on.

Asked whether the UK was seeking a discount on membership after having paid into Horizon after Brexit, the No 10 official said: “You’re right that the delays have had an impact on the participation rates for UK scientists that were envisaged under the TCA (Trade and Co-operation Agreement), so it is right that we address that in any solution.

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“It doesn’t affect just the past two years but also the future value that the UK will get from these programmes, and the UK would be a net contributor to the Horizon programme if the decision were made to take that approach.

“So obviously there are issues that we are discussing and that we continue to discuss with the EU, and we will consider next steps.”

Pressed on whether Sunak was not willing to be a net contributor, his spokesman replied: “I think overall we want to make sure that any deal, whether it is Horizon or the UK alternative Pioneer, is the one that produces the best value for UK science and research and also for taxpayers. That is what the Prime Minister will consider at the appropriate time.”

A spokeswoman for the UK Government said: “Talks are ongoing and therefore we have not yet agreed a deal.”