Moray’s political leaders are insisting that all hope has not been lost over the possibility of the region hosting the UK’s first Spaceport – but speculation over the reintroduction of maritime aircraft could hold the key.
Richard Lochhead and Angus Robertson moved to give their full support to renewed efforts by the Moray Economic Partnership and Moray Council for a change of mind over the base at Kinloss becoming the home for the spaceport initiative.
That is despite both Kinloss and the base at RAF Lossiemouth already being counted out of the running for the role – and moves at the Scottish Government to favour Prestwick Airport.
“The case for Moray hosting a spaceport is very strong,” Richard Lochhead MSP insisted, adding: “We have the facilities, we have the weather – we have the fantastic photographic location.”
While MSPs are gathering in Holyrood to boost the case for Prestwick, the Ayrshire airport saved from closure by Scottish Government intervention, Mr Lochhead insisted he was still arguing the case for Moray: “Prestwick will make its case as will other potential locations, but I continue to make the case for spaceport investment in Moray.”
Meanwhile newly re-elected MP Angus Robertson, who will this week lead 56 MP’s to take up their seats at Westminster, pledged his continued support: “The SNP Scottish Government has made clear its commitment to press for Scotland to host the proposed spaceport.
“I am absolutely clear that I believe Moray is the ideal location – it is beyond me why the UK Government has ruled it out at this early stage and we must continue to push for Moray to be reinstated as a potential site.”
However, the pledges came at a time when reports suggest the Ministry of Defence is set to be handed up to £2billion to purchase up to ten Maritime Patrol Aircraft to deal with an increased threat of incursion by Russian submarines.
The weekend Sunday newspaper reports suggest that David Cameron’s government have now accepted the need to replace the Nimrod aircraft they scrapped at the start of their term in office five years ago.
That news has increased speculation over the future military use of Kinloss, which was the home to the Nimrod aircraft and would remain an ideal future location for the re-establishment of such a force.
When both Lossiemouth and Kinloss were rejected from the shortlist for a UK Spaceport future defence use of the bases was cited as the main reason.
The weekend reports suggest that the latest Boeing P-8 Poseidon aircraft were being considered for the Royal Air Force – aircraft that have become familiar to many of the former Nimrod crews who have been flying the aircraft with the US Navy as part of ‘project seedcorn’.