I HAVE a tongue-in-cheek after-dinner speech called 'How East Lothian Invented the Modern World', running through the many new ideas and inventions started here, or by sons and daughters of the county.

The idea came from a great book called How the Scots Invented The Modern World by Arthur Herman, which is a slightly more sophisticated version of the tea towel featuring 'Scottish Inventions' on sale in the tourist shops of the nation.

Much of Herman’s book is about the Scottish Enlightenment, and most of that about our universities, of which we have more than our fair share, and some of the oldest and most famous in the world.

That is as important to our future as it is to our past. Whether it is artificial intelligence, new drugs, bionic limbs, gravity waves, renewable energy or even cutting-edge computer games, it is our universities driving these new inventions and industries.

Our universities are about vital research and innovation, as well as turning out great graduates. They are important employers too, not least here in East Lothian with QMU as well as several universities nearby in Edinburgh.

You would think that the Scottish Government would support our universities in every way possible. They have maintained the free tuition for Scottish students introduced by the Labour-led executive in 2001. Otherwise, though, their record is poor.

Student grants and bursaries were slashed in 2013 and never restored. Our students now graduate with double the debt they did when the SNP came to power.

Moreover, the budget which Parliament will consider later today cuts university funding instead of investing in this vital sector. The university budget will fall to 11 per cent less than it was only five years ago, and in that time universities will have missed out on over £400m of resources they should have had if their budget had been protected.

This is just short-sighted, and if we go on like this Professor Herman will not be writing a sequel on new Scottish inventions any time soon.