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Focus must be on socio-economic benefit from spaceport, says Thurso councillor

By Scott Maclennan

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The spaceport has been approved by Highland Council's north planning applications committee.
The spaceport has been approved by Highland Council's north planning applications committee.

Caithness councillor Struan Mackie says the focus must be on ensuring as much socio-economic benefit as possible from Space Hub Sutherland now that planning consent has been given.

He was speaking after Highland Council's north planning applications committee unanimously approved the £17.3 million spaceport project at the Mhoine.

Councillor Mackie said the consent offered "a glimmer of positivity in the midst of global uncertainty".

The committee’s decision will be referred to Scottish Government ministers for review.

Councillor Mackie (Conservative, Thurso and Northwest Caithness) warned: "It is of the utmost importance that the Scottish Government must not call this application in. To do so will only create deep uncertainty for the area and completely erode the advantage Sutherland holds over vertical launch competitors elsewhere in Scotland.

"We have seen from the Coul Links [golf course] decision earlier this year that ‘called in’ applications are unpredictable and that local decisions with significant local backing can be overturned."

He added: "Our focus as a community must now turn to the supply chain opportunities and ensuring that as much socio-economic benefit can be generated from the launch site as possible.

"Creating long-term employment opportunities in the far north has proved to be challenging but we have a long history of highly skilled employment using cutting-edge technology, whether it be in nuclear decommissioning, battery technology or advanced engineering.

"Even a small complement of jobs in north Sutherland will go a long way in our fight against rural depopulation but there is significant potential for Highland to lead the way.

"Creating an industry cluster for vertical launches will be the real test of long-term employment and I believe now is the time for Highland Council and the Scottish and UK governments to seize the opportunity presented by the planning consent."

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