Spaceport key to moving fixed links up the agenda

THE NOW licensed spaceport in Unst should act as a catalyst for much needed improvements to Shetland’s internal and external transport links, local politicians have said.

There was widespread delight and relief in response to Sunday’s announcement by the Civil Aviation Authority, which had granted the UK’s first licence for vertical rocket launches to SaxaVord Spaceport.

Speaking to Shetland News on Sunday, the spaceport’s chief executive Frank Strang confirmed that the UK Government was also looking into investing into the spaceport as well as associated infrastructure.

“We are in talks with the UK Government about investment in the spaceport direct, as part of those discussions we are talking about potential UK Government investment in supporting the infrastructure associated with the spaceport which includes fixed links,” he said.

Northern MP Alistair Carmichael described the granting of the CAA licence as a “significant milestone”.

“It was never going to be an easy journey but the project has come a great way in a relatively short time,” he said.

And the MP continued: “I would now like to see all public agencies – HIE, the council, Scottish and UK governments get together to make this happen and to get the maximum benefit for Shetland from it.

“The most obvious project that they could get working on would be the construction of tunnels.”

Council leader Emma Macdonald said this was not just excellent news for Unst but for all of Shetland.

She added: “The space centre is regarded as important national infrastructure which will really help us continue to make the case for support for future transport and connectivity infrastructure.

“It’s also really exciting for our young people and the potential for future jobs in this sector. Our education service has been working closely with UHI and the spaceport to create an education strategy which will hopefully encourage young people.

“It’s good to end the year with some positive news for everyone.”

North Isles councillor Ryan Thomson said: “This is another significant milestone and hurdle overcome by SaxaVord Spaceport which will hopefully introduce a new, unique industry to Unst, and with it, the potential for new jobs on the isle.

“I do hope that the potential for this project is maximised and the benefits felt across the island, the North Isles and Shetland for many years to come.”

The licence permits SaxaVord to host up to 30 launches a year, with the first expected to take place in 2024.

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