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Ullapool environmentalist Finlay Pringle (12) lodges objection to Sutherland spaceport


By Alison Cameron

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Finlay Pringle.
Finlay Pringle.

SCOTLAND'S leading young environmentalist has objected to Britain's first vertical launch spaceport planned for the Moine Peninsula near Tongue.

Finlay Pringle – who has been hailed by TV wildlife presenter Chris Packham and campaigner Greta Thunberg – has officially lodged his protest over the planned £17.3m spaceport.

Finlay, a global shark ambassador for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, was last year selected as one of 10 UK "Change Makers" by the Children's Media Conference in Sheffield.

The 12-year-old from Ullapool has also won numerous awards for his conservation work. He was made "Young Marine Conservationist of the Year" by the Marsh Christian Trust, in conjunction with the Wildlife Trust, in 2018 and last year won the Daily Mirror "Young Animal Hero" of 2019.

Finlay hit the headlines when he was "sacked" by a group as an ambassador for sharks and was subject to scout leaders trolling him after he posted online his opposition to a controversial sea adventure project by TV survival expert Bear Grylls.

But he was hailed as a hero by BBC Springwatch presenter Mr Packham for standing up to the intimidation.

Now in his letter to Highland Council, protesting about the spaceport, Finlay writes: "My issues with the spaceport begin with nature. The Flow Country is Europe's largest peat bog and is being considered for UNESCO world heritage site status.

"The spaceport site is close to a Special Area of Conservation; Special Protection Area; RAMSAR site (Wetland of International importance) and also 3 SSSI designations for rare plants and animals.

"In this unique area they are proposing a spaceport for space tourism and to launch satellites for research we don't need, such as to study climate change!

"How backward is that, we already have more than enough information about climate change to know that we only have 10 years left to reduce our carbon dioxide levels – no more study is required, we just need governments and councils to listen to the science and take proper, meaningful action on the climate emergencies they have declared.

"In addition to being a rare, unique habitat, peat bogs are also a vital carbon sink in the battle to prevent climate change. Compared to the Amazon rainforest peatbogs can store 30 times the amount of carbon dioxide from the same land area.

"Just recently the Scottish Government recognised this importance by announcing funding to help restore more of this precious habitat, why then are Highlands and Islands Enterprise using £9.8 million of public money to support the building of a spaceport? Surely it doesn't make sense to spend our money restoring peat bogs and then to spend more of our money destroying them.

"The Highland Council declared a Climate Emergency on 9 May 2019. How can the construction of a spaceport in the Highlands which will increase the amount of CO2 in the air by 950T each year be compatible with this declaration? We need people in authority to take the climate and ecological breakdowns seriously, refusing planning for this project would be a good start and signal that the council is prepared to back up its words and take positive action on climate change and protection of nature."

Objections have topped over 300 so far with 88 in favour.

Melness Crofters Estate (MCE), who own the earmarked site, and local community councils have backed the scheme.

Related article: Wester Ross wildlife ambassador (12) attends 50th strike for climate change


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