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Sutherland MP and MSP make joint submission in favour of spaceport plan


By Alan Hendry

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An artist's impression of the new spaceport to be based on the A'Mhoine Peninsula in Sutherland.
An artist's impression of the new spaceport to be based on the A'Mhoine Peninsula in Sutherland.

Jamie Stone and Gail Ross have joined forces to express their support for the planned Sutherland spaceport.

Mr Stone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, and Mrs Ross, the SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, insist that the economic benefits from the £17.3m project would "far outweigh" any environmental worries.

They made their comments in a joint submission to planning authorities.

The MP and MSP stated: “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.”

Speaking after the submission, Mr Stone said: “Gail and I are very happy to put our political differences aside and join forces in support of the Sutherland spaceport.

“I work tirelessly each week in parliament to raise the spaceport’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 the spaceport.”

The A'Mhoine peninsula in north Sutherland has been chosen as the most suitable place from which to launch rockets vertically to put satellites in orbit.

The full text of the submission from Mr Stone and Mrs Ross:

"We write jointly to support the application for a spaceport and its associated infrastructure in Sutherland.

"The county of Sutherland is classed as remote rural by the Scottish Government in the current classifications. 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.

"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 regard to the environment and we also understand that the aim of the spaceport is to be carbon neutral due to the launchers being powered by bio propane.

"We also refer to a recent article in The National newspaper which made the claim that the proposed site is part of the Flow Country. It is not, and people that are not from the area should be very wary when making such emotive claims.

"If we were to have this kind of facility on the north coast, it could enable organisations such as the Environmental Research Institute, which is a world-class research centre in Thurso, to look at securing funding for research into various aspects of satellite launch.

"It would open up the north coast to all sorts of other opportunities for tourism – a sector that we rely heavily on in the Highlands.

"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."

Meanwhile, Scotland’s leading young environmentalist has objected to the spaceport. Finlay Pringle (12) – who has been hailed by TV wildlife presenter Chris Packham and campaigner Greta Thunberg – believes it will be damaging to nature.

Finlay, from Ullapool, was last year selected as one of 10 UK “Change Makers” by the Children’s Media Conference in Sheffield. He has also won numerous awards for his conservation work.

The local community council and Melness Crofters' Estate, which owns the site, have supported the spaceport.


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