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Sutherland Space Hub and the Military

As the controversial Space Hub on A’Mhòine edges closer to reality, fears deepen that it will soon become a launchpad for military and spy technologies.

The Sutherland Space Hub gained planning permission from the Highland Council last month, despite more than 400 objections from the public, after Scottish Ministers chose not to call in the application and subject it to more rigorous scrutiny. Now the project faces only the barriers of a Scottish Land Court application and formal business case approval before it can go ahead.

 

The UK Space Agency has already awarded grants to two companies, Lockheed Martin and Orbex, to launch satellites from the site. By far the bigger beneficiary of the two, with grants of over £23.5m, Lockheed Martin is also easily the world’s largest arms producer, responsible for over $47.3 billion of arms sales in 2018.

Although Highlands & Islands Enterprise, the body responsible for the Space Hub, have claimed that it will be used for “commercial” purposes, in a detailed investigation last week, The Ferret warned that this would not rule out customers from the world of the military and defence. Indeed, RAF leaders have spoken openly of the site’s potential for military use since at least 2018.

Our concerns share common ground with environmental campaigners, who have spoken out about the devastation the Space Hub would wreak on a unique Scottish peatland habitat, and set up campaigns to protect the A'Mhoine. A rethink of the Sutherland Space Hub plans would protect people and planet alike.

It is concerning that the only real scrutiny this project has faced seems to be in the context of land and planning laws, which cannot engage with the wider political and moral questions raised by the possible future uses of the Space Hub site. If the project is to go ahead, the Scottish and UK Governments must be asked to clearly and unequivocally rule out the use of the site for any military purpose, now or in the future.

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