Moray finally admits defeat in the race for space

Moray hopes for a role in a UK Space programme has ended

THE FINAL FRONTIER has been met for Moray’s dreams of playing a major part in any future UK Space programme.

Lingering hopes that there would be a change of direction by the Civil Aviation Authority over its refusal to consider either Lossiemouth or Kinloss as the home for the programme finally ended with an admission of defeat.

When both military airfields were rejected at the first round earlier this year, business leaders and politicians in Moray refused to give up on the idea – issuing an appeal that Kinloss, at least, was worthy of reconsideration.

However, the Moray Economic Partnership (MEP), who had argued the case for Moray which was at one point considered the front-runner in the UK’s space race, admitted their dreams were now over.

Following consultation with local MP Angus Robertson and a clear response from the Ministry of Defence that they would not budge on the issue, a spokesman for the MEP said: “We have sadly taken the decision to put our bid for a spaceport for Moray on hold.

“We have a very strong case and worked very hard to lobby on behalf of the people of Moray – so we are very disappointed that we cannot progress further.”

Refusal of the Ministry of Defence to back Moray is seen by many as a sign that Kinloss in particular has not seen an end to its use as a frontline airbase.

When the Nimrod programme was scrapped and the RAF handed the base over to the Army, it was expected that all future flying would be concentrated on the expanded facilities at Scotland’s only remaining frontline RAF base at Lossiemouth.

However, plans are understood to be well advanced for a new maritime patrol aircraft for the RAF – with Kinloss once again expected to play a leading role.

Angus Robertson MP admitted that Moray was at a “dead end” in terms of the space programme, adding: “Moray has raised its profile both at home and abroad as a result of the campaign and has shown it is ambitious to embrace big campaigns to get the best investment our region possibly can.”

However, Scottish Conservative councillor Douglas Ross insisted that the Scottish Government never really backed the Moray bid: “With their involvement in Prestwick Airport there is a feeling that they had decided that Moray was not their favoured option from the outset.”

A Scottish Government spokesman insisted that their objective from the outset is that the spaceport is located north of the border: “While Glasgow Prestwick Airport is well placed to submit a strong bid we stand ready to support and offer advice to any Scottish bid.”