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Spaceport plans 'a boon for Highland economy'

By Calum MacLeod

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CREATION of a spaceport in Sutherland will bring many benefits to neighbouring Ross-shire and the wider Highlands, business leaders and local politicians believe.

The proposed site at the Mhoine peninsula in Suther-land has been awarded £2.5 million in Industrial Strategy funding as the next step towards the creation of a small-satellite vertical launch facility.

Together with proposed horizontal launch sites in Cornwall, Glasgow Prestwick and Snowdonia, this would enable the UK to compete for a share of the commercial satellite launch market and could be worth £3.8 billion to the country’s economy over the next decade.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise chief executive Charlotte Wright said the news was "tremendous" for the region.

"The international space sector is growing and we want to ensure the region is ready to reap the economic benefits that will be generated from this fantastic opportunity."

And MP Jamie Stone, whose constituency covers Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, believes the move will help reverse a brain drain of talent leaving the Highlands for the central belt.

He said: "Stopping local people leaving the remote part of the Highlands – persuading them to stay and bring up their families – has been a huge challenge for hundreds of years.

"The key issue has always been providing high-quality jobs.

"Now we have the incredibly exciting prospect of north Sutherland becoming the future spaceport for the whole of the UK – our own British Cape Canaveral.

"The decision to place the spaceport in Sutherland will be a real boost to future employment in the area.

"Not only that, but it will become a considerable tourist attraction for many years to come.

"As the local MP I am delighted by this announcement.

"Having lobbied to have the spaceport in my constituency I am bound to express my grateful thanks for this most welcome decision by the UK government.

"I intend to be there when the first rocket takes off – and when it does there is every likelihood that there will be a large dram in my hand."

Scotland’s minister for finance, economy and fair work Derek Mackay also welcomed the latest move, saying it was a "significant first step towards stimulating space sector activity across the whole of Scotland and beyond.

He added: "A spaceport will open up a wide range of market opportunities and give our businesses a competitive advantage to keep us ahead of the curve. The additional activity generated will create high-skilled jobs and encourage foreign direct investment."

The Sutherland site could be operational by the early 2020s, creating hundreds of jobs through the use of innovative rocket technology to delver a cost-effective launch service.

The UK Space Agency selected Sutherland because Scotland is the best place in the UK to reach highly sought-after satellite orbits with vertically-launched rockets.

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