17 June 2019
Scottish spaceport site suitability questioned in new study
By National Newsdesk
The National


The UK Space Agency announced last year the A'Mhoine peninsula in the Highlands had been selected as it is the best place in the UK to reach highly sought-after satellite orbits with vertically launched rockets.

A REPORT has cast doubt on the suitability of the Scottish site chosen as the location for the UK’s first major spaceport. The UK Space Agency said last year the A’Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland had been selected because it is the best place in the UK to reach highly sought-after satellite orbits with vertically launched rockets.

New research questions why a site covered by environmental designations was picked and casts doubts on claims that 40 “high-quality jobs” would be created, suggesting the jobs available to local people would be in “housekeeping and security”.

However, its claims have been refuted by the Highlands and Islands Enterprise Agency and the UK Space Agency.

The research by Professor Mike Danson, of Heriot-Watt University, and Geoff Whittam, of Glasgow Caledonian University, says the Sutherland spaceport (SSP) could help stem the population decline through the creation of jobs but adds: “However, this narrative can be challenged on the grounds that the new jobs accessible to locals will be low quality; the damage caused by the construction and operation of the SSP will lead to the further destruction of this Highland ‘wild land’; and in turn this will reduce the opportunity for other more appropriate entrepreneurial ventures.

“In fact the spaceport will lead to ‘destructive entrepreneurship’.”

The report, to be presented at a conference in Inverness today, concluded significant costs were recognised in the case for the SSP while benefits for the area have been “exaggerated”.

However, a spokesman for Highland and Islands Enterprise said: "The space sector is a relatively new and growing area of the economy that offers significant opportunities for the Highlands and Islands.

"The HIE Board approved support for the Sutherland Spaceport following the UK Space Agency (UKSA) decision to support development at this site and to award research and development grant funding to two international launch companies as partners in the Sutherland project.

"One of these companies has already opened a factory in Forres where it is creating jobs. This is an early sign of the economic opportunity a launch site will present for different parts of our region.

"We commissioned an independent economic impact assessment as part of our due diligence. This concluded that Space Hub Sutherland has the potential to support 40 high quality jobs locally, and 400 across our region.

"It is important to stress that the plans for Space Hub Sutherland are still in development. We're working towards submitting a planning application, and public consultation will be an important part of that process. This will give local people and other interested parties the opportunity to learn more about the project and fully explore what it means for Sutherland and the wider region."

A spokesman for the UK Space Agency said: "The UK government's £50 million spaceflight programme is supporting a number of industry-led initiatives to build the capabilities that will launch the UK into the new space age.

"We awarded grant funding to Sutherland after conducting a rigorous assessment of 26 proposals. The proposed spaceport offers excellent opportunities for Scotland to support innovative technologies and create new space jobs."

Earlier this year UK-based firm Orbex unveiled its Prime rocket, designed to take satellites to altitudes of up to 776 miles, at its new base in Moray.

It has predicted that its decision to open a mission control and design facility at the Forres Enterprise Park could create more than 130 new jobs.

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