Scotland’s Discover Space UK, one of the front runners to host the country’s first spaceport, says it is ‘runway-ready’ to support the Government’s ambitions following the Queen’s speech.
Based at the community-owned airbase near Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula, the Machrihanish Airbase Community Company [MACC] proposal is the only shortlisted bidder to have been twice approved for spaceflight and is the only one of the list that can meet the UK Government’s minimum runway length for the proposed facility.
In her speech, Her Majesty confirmed her government’s intention to establish a commercial spaceport worth up to £40 billion a year to the economy by 2030.
Reacting to the speech, Tom Millar, chairman of MACC and of iscover Space UK, said: ‘It’s clear there remains a keen appetite for a spaceport in the UK and we’re ready to show we share the government’s enthusiasm and passion to make this happen.
‘Today’s speech didn’t quite represent the firing of the starter’s pistol, but it does suggest that things will move forward soon and we’re looking forward to putting forward our case as to why Campbeltown is the best possible choice for a spaceport.
‘We are ideally placed to best advance the country’s space ambitions and Scotland’s current place as a leading international player in satellite and space technology.
‘Twice approved for spaceflight and runway-ready, Machrihanish is ready to help the Government meet its ambitions.’
The base’s space credentials go back as far as 1981, when NASA approved the site as an emergency landing spot for the Space Shuttle. The 3,049m long runway, which launches straight over the Atlantic Ocean, is one of the few able to welcome a landing shuttle and get it back in the air via a Boeing 747 Shuttle Aircraft Carrier.
Then, in 2009, Virgin Galactic had said Machrihanish was one of its preferred sites for a UK spaceport.
Mr Millar says: ‘Our strengths from a technical and strategic standpoint are significant and we are hoping that the UK Government takes this into account when making its decision. We are the only bidder who can make any necessary changes in a short space of time – and with minimal air traffic, there’s little concern about interfering with busy timetables.
‘We have terrific support from the community and our local authority who are both keen to work with us to bring the country’s first spaceport to Kintyre. With significant room for development on the site, terrific opportunity for economic regeneration and first-class safety facilities, we are exceptionally well-placed to move forward with the development required at short notice.’
Mr Millar notes: ‘One of our other huge assets is that we are set amongst some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Space tourism will be a significant part of any successful spaceport. With some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes, miles of sandy beaches, two world-class links golf courses and luxury hotels – there’s few places that can compete.
‘Top that off with 12 globally-renowned whisky distilleries on our doorstep, including three in Campbeltown itself, and we have a very compelling argument to offer the best option for business and leisure space activity.’
Nick Ferguson’s recent one-man report from the supposed committee he chairs, set up by Argyll and Bute Council, to focus attention on economic development for Argyll was disappointing in failing utterly to realise the signal importance of the Campbeltown spaceport bid.
It was mentioned in passing but the reality is that if this case can be won – and the Campbeltown case is a very powerful one indeed, this single development is a potential game changer for the whole of Argyll and the Isles as well as, of course, f0r Kintyre.
There will have to be shuttle flights between Glasgow and Campbeltown. Transport flights as well as passenger flights will be needed.
Support and supply chain businesses will establish themselves at the spaceport and in the vicinity.
The impact on infrastucture and the economy will be immense.
All of this also feeds tourism – in publicity for the innovation of the UK”s first spaceport, in the media images of the locality – which is stunning – and in the succession of news about the ongoing activities at the space base.
And after the technological and business launches, when the first commercial passenger carrying flight launches from Machrihanish….
Tourism is the only business that is immune to the economic and political uncertainties surrounding the First Minister’s political opportunism in continuing her irresponsible talking up of the possibility of a second indyref she has no intention of calling. Visitors just want to be in a specific place for their particular form of pleasure seeking and for a shortish period of time. Provided a country is physically safe, its politics and its constitutional position are irrelevant to such worthwhile birds of passage.
But beyond that, with Campbeltown the UK’s first spaceport, Argyll itself will become a focus of new attention of all kinds, opening up a spectrum of opportunities which, if there is sure constitutional stability, will attract inward investment and the inward migration Argyll so badly needs – if higher tax and the Named Person folly do not dissuade the otherwise ready and willing to come here.
Politicians at all levels, enterprise agencies and businesses across Argyll need to understand that this is the one chance Argyll has to jump to a positive step change to a very different future.
The UK Government needs to be much better informed on the Campbeltown bid’s capability – and to be aware that its major competition is political. The Scottish Government owns Prestwick, another finalist. This is a far less suitable location in its dense conurbation and its launch direction – but one which may have a powerful supporting lobby.
All of Argyll and everything to do with it needs to muster behind this Campbeltown bid for the UK’s first spaceport. The rewards will be widely transformational – and who has any semblance of an alternative game changer for Argyll?