Ross-shire representatives cross party lines to back Sutherland spaceport proposal; Spaceport 'could help reverse depopulation and create jobs'
TWO politicians who represent Ross-shire have joined forces to back multimillion-pound proposals for a spaceport in the Highlands.
The proposal for the first spaceport in the United Kingdom to be located within the Melness Crofting Estate on the A' Mhòine peninsula in Sutherland has proved controversial with some pointing to the jobs potential and economic boost and others warning of the environmental impact.
Liberal Democrat MP Jamie Stone, who represents Easter Ross and SNP MSP Gail Ross, who represents Ross-shire, have crossed party political lines to back the Sutherland Spaceport project.
In a submission to local planning authorities they wrote: “We write jointly to support the application for a Spaceport and its associated infrastructure in Sutherland. Sutherland desperately needs the investment and associated employment
“Having looked at the plans and spoken to the relevant organisations, we conclude that the economic benefits would far outweigh any environmental concerns. We understand that the design was done carefully to make sure it is not being built on any ground that has protected status.
“We want the message to be heard that Sutherland and the rest of the Highlands actively encourages inward investment, that we are open for business and we urge Highland Council to approve this planning application.”
Mr Stone said: “Both Gail and I are very happy to put our political differences aside and join forces in support of the Sutherland Space Port.
“I work tirelessly each week in Parliament to raise the Port’s profile and to invite those from the aerospace industry – especially those with commitments to upholding the highest environmental standards – to collaborate with us in making these plans a reality.
“I will continue to do whatever I can to ensure that Sutherland benefits from the construction of Spaceport.”
Their letter states: "The county of Sutherland is classed as remote rural by the Scottish Government in the current classifications. The Highland Council's corporate plan 2019- 2022 predicts that the population of Caithness and Sutherland will fall by 21.1 per cent and 11.9 per cent respectively, if no action is taken.
"Communities along the north coast have been fighting to halt depopulation for a number of years. The area contains one of the most fragile economies in Highland and the need for employment has to be taken into consideration whenever a proposal like this is brought forward. Sutherland desperately needs the investment and associated employment."
It adds: "We were disappointed at the recent refusal of the Coul Links development in East Sutherland and the associated investment and jobs. Of course, there has to be a balance struck between regeneration and environmental issues, given that we are in a climate emergency.
"Having looked at the plans and spoken to the relevant organisations, we conclude that the economic benefits would far outweigh any environmental concerns. We understand that the design was done carefully to make sure it is not being built on any ground that has protected status.
"The Environmental Impact Assessment demonstrates due consideration has been taken with regards to the environment and we also understand that the aim of the Space Port is to be carbon neutral due to the launchers being powered by bio propane."
The letter says such a facility on the north coast could enable organisations such as the Environmental Research Institute,a research centre in Thurso, to look at securing funding for research into various aspects of satellite launch. It would then "open up the north coast to all sorts of other opportunities for tourism - a sector that we rely heavily on in the Highlands".
The local community council and Melness Crofters' Estate, which owns the site, have supported the spaceport.