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Jamie Stone calls for youth space fair in Thurso to highlight career opportunities

By Gordon Calder

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A space industry convention for young people should be funded by the UK government and held in the far north, Jamie Stone said.

The far north MP made the plea in a debate in the House of Commons with the aim of introducing young people to the jobs and opportunities available in the industry.

Mr Stone, the MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, suggested that the event could be staged at Thurso’s North Highland College which is part of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Spaceport Sutherland is expected to bring hundreds of jobs to the north coast.
Spaceport Sutherland is expected to bring hundreds of jobs to the north coast.

Speaking in a debate on the UK space industry, he said Spaceport Sutherland is well under way and promises 250 new job opportunities in the area.

He said: "It is crucial that young people know what opportunities lie in store for them at the spaceport. That is why I have asked the government to provide financial backing towards a space industry fair to give youngsters the chance to meet people from the industry, ask questions, and be inspired.

"Depopulation is, and has long been, the curse of the Highlands. The introduction of the Nigg fabrication yard, the Dounreay nuclear facility, and more recently the Cromarty Firth Green Freeport, and the Sutherland Spaceport has brought in many new job opportunities and promised even more, meaning that local people can choose to stay, work, and ultimately raise families of their own at home.”

The Liberal Democrat MP added: “The government needs to invest in homegrown talent to ensure the future of not only the spaceport but also communities in the Highlands.

“The big challenge for us is how we will get the seedcorn we need to develop these homegrown skills. I suggest to the minister that the government should showcase proudly everything they are doing on this front, by holding space industry fairs.”

Replying, MP Andrew Griffith, minister of state for science, research and innovation, said Mr Stone is “absolutely right to champion the spaceport in his constituency” and mentioned the economic contribution space can make and its role in “inspiring future generations”.

“I will take away the honorary gentleman’s wonderful suggestion of a space youth fair. Let us see what we can do together with the UK Space Agency.”

In a follow-up letter to the minister, Mr Stone said training up and hiring local people is important to ensure that the “foundations of the spaceport are sustainable in the long term”.

Mr Stone said: “The spaceport will give the UK an international standing it has never had before. Ultimately, the spaceport should be mutually beneficial to the UK as a whole as it is to local people on the ground, but in the meantime, government support is needed.

“When it comes to choosing an appropriate venue, the North Highland College – the Thurso branch of the University of the Highlands and Islands – would be more than ideal. Being placed close to Thurso train station, and only an hour’s drive away from the site itself, this is an ideal location to bring in plenty of promising young people who very well might be the future of the UK’s space industry.”

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