Moray will not be the home of a new UK Spaceport with the UK Government dismissing the case for Lossiemouth and Kinloss on “operational defence grounds”
The region had been at the forefront of plans to launch passenger flights into space from the UK for a number of years, with Virgin Galactic having pitched the idea of Lossiemouth being one of the few sites in the UK thought to be ideal.
However, this week the UK Government revealed the result of their study into several locations for a future Spaceport – and concluded that MoD objections to the bases in Moray being used was enough to exclude Kinloss and Lossiemouth from their plans.
The decision provoked anger in Moray with local MP Angus Robertson saying he was “mystified” as to why defence ministers saw Kinloss as a vital defence base just a few years after then had withdrawn the Nimrod fleet and threatened to close it and RAF Lossiemouth completely.
Mr Robertson said: “The announcement that Kinloss and Lossiemouth have both been ruled out as potential spaceport sites is an extremely bad decision by the UK Government.
“I am utterly mystified that the Ministry of Defence assessment has reached this conclusion, particularly at Kinloss, whose runway is barely used since the Nimrods were removed from service and which has acres of space that could be better used.
“Given the keen interest shown in Moray’s location and facilities by Virgin Galactic it is an inexplicable decision.
“Many folk in Moray, both in public agencies and in the wider community, have backed the idea of a spaceport here and have evidenced the suitability of the area for it.
“They will be hugely disappointed by a decision that simply defies logic.”
In a rare demonstration of unity, Mr Robertson’s Labour opponent in the forthcoming general election agreed with that view.
Sean Morton said: “This decision is a real blow to Moray and to the long-term future of Kinloss.
“I am astonished that the government waited this long and then in one day struck down both of Moray’s chances at hosting the spaceport for defence reasons. If the defence reasons were so compelling then they should have told us that at the outset.
“Moray has the clear skies, the open space and the know-how to host a Spaceport. The government should seriously reconsider and at the very least make it clear what the long-term plan for the bases are.
“A great many people have invested time and energy in trying to bring the Spaceport to Moray. As things stand, all the UK government have done is dash our hopes at the stroke of a pen.”
The Moray bid for the national Spaceport was put forward by the Moray Economic Partnership (MEP), who had recognised the importance of RAF Lossiemouth as a front-line air defence base – and so pressed for Kinloss as the prime location with Lossiemouth as an emergency back-up.
Last night the chairman of the MEP, John Cowe, insisted that they still strongly believed Moray had the best case in relation to weather, infrastructure, workforce and uncongested airspace. He said: “We believe the area has all the necessary economic attributes to ensure the successful deployment of a spaceport between now and 2030.
“It is deeply frustrating that the MoD’s operational issue was not flagged up earlier in the process – the MEP will now seek meetings with the UK Government departments so that we can fully understand the rationale behind the recommendations and push for reconsideration of Moray as the spaceport location.”