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MAREE TODD: Sutherland Space Port set to bring huge boost to north economy

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Work on the spaceport site has begun.
Work on the spaceport site has begun.

I was delighted to see the pictures from the ceremony marking the first breaking of the ground at the site for the Sutherland Space Port, which will soon become the UK’s first vertical launch spaceport.

This moment represents a giant leap forward in Scotland becoming a leading space nation. Representing the Scottish Government on this special occasion, was Small Business, Trade and Innovation Minister Richard Lochhead, who recently led a Scottish Government debate on Scotland’s space sector. During the debate, he highlighted the wealth of employment opportunities in the industry. According to the most recent figures, around 8568 jobs in Scotland are created by the space industry – almost a fifth (18 per cent) of all UK space sector jobs. This figure is set to increase as Scotland aims for 20,000 new jobs by 2030 and a £4 billion share of the global space market.

The Highlands and Islands is expected to benefit from 250 new jobs – including 40 in Sutherland and Caithness. From scientists to welders to engineers the port will offer a range of local high value jobs, providing a transformational boost to the far north economy and its communities.

It is not just the economic contribution we are focused on. Space will also play a significant role in our fight against climate change. Sustainability will be a core focus as we build on our strengths and grow in this market. The Scottish space sector is already innovating using greener fuels, lightweight materials, smart design, and reusability. The satellites, and the data and imagery it produces are also critical to monitoring changes in our planet.

With the Sutherland Space Port set to become the first carbon-neutral spaceport in the world, the Highlands is, as always, leading the way.

In other welcome news, I was pleased to hear of the considerable increase in road funding to Caithness, allocated through the new strategic road’s investment formula. From this, Caithness will receive an additional £1.8 million to improve local road infrastructure, taking the overall investment to nearly £3 million this financial year. This is a substantial increase on previous years. In 2022 the allocated budget investment for Caithness was £1.5m and in 2021, £1.2m. This is what leadership looks like. Thanks to the SNP-led administration, a radical and well overdue reform of the way roads funding is allocated has taken place. This has allowed for funding to reach the communities that need it most. Under this budget, it is both Caithness and Skye that are to see the biggest increase in funding.

Previous administrations presided over years of under-investment in our Highland roads which has taken its toll, particularly in Caithness where local communities have been crying out for additional road spending due to the unacceptable deterioration of the network. The new Highland Council administration has listened to the priorities of our communities and responded by not only providing a funding boost, but also introducing a more considerate, strategic funding formula which will work to benefit Caithness and communities across the Highlands in the years to come.

The work needed to repair the full road network in Caithness is extensive, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.

Maree Todd is the SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross.

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