I bet you immediately knew where the A’Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland is didn’t you? It’s where we might build a UK space port.  It is described as a remote boggy stretch of land by the BBC,

The site may initially host rocket and satellite launches but commercial passenger travel could then follow according to the Daily Record.  Pretty handy to get to!

UK Space Agency selected the Sutherland site because Scotland is the best place in the UK to reach highly sought-after satellite orbits with vertically launched rockets according to the UK Space Agency, Department of Business and the Scottish Office.  Is Sutherland closer to the sky than anywhere else then?

Charlotte Wright, chief executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said ‘The decision to support the UK’s first spaceport in Sutherland is tremendous news for our region and for Scotland as a whole.

The international space sector is growing and we want to ensure the region is ready to reap the economic benefits that will be generated from this fantastic opportunity.‘.

Will Whitehorn, non-executive Chairman of Clyde Space said ‘From designing and building the very first satellite in Scotland, Clyde Space has grown and become a front runner in small-satellite manufacturing. Having a spaceport located in Scotland will bring about a whole host of commercial advantages and not only to our operations in Glasgow, but to the entire space sector in the whole of the UK.‘.

Peter Platzer, CEO of Spire Global, said ‘A spaceport in Scotland and the UK is fantastic news! Launch continues to be the most unpredictable part of the overall supply chain, with delays, often for months and sometimes years, being the norm. In Spire, Scotland already sports Europe’s most advanced and prolific satellite manufacturing capability, and with a space port right next door, enabling clockwork like launches, we can finally get our space sector supply chain to be truly integrated!

Graham Turnock, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said ‘This grant will help to kick-start an exciting new era for the UK space industry, and this is only the beginning of our LaunchUK campaign. We are committed to supporting a commercial market for access to space in the UK, and we will continue to engage with any company who seeks to operate here.‘.

The plan has been described as ‘ground-breaking’.  Aye, and there’s the rub, but it will be a lot easier to push through if we ditch the protection afforded by the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.

Large parts of this remote and boggy area are protected by domestic UK legislation – it’s an SSSI:

And this area was selected as a Special Protection Area by the UK to meet our obligations under the the Birds Directive:


And this peninsula was selected as a Special Area of Conservation by the UK to meet our obligations under the Habitats and Species Directive:


It will be interesting to see what the Wildlife NGOs say about this.

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21 Replies to “A’Mhoine”

  1. oh you don't want to fuss about a few birds and bunnies when there's lots of lovely money to be made, do you? We live by bread alone remember.

  2. I know the area quite well but thanks for the designations, Mark. It’s a true wild place and any development must not be justified by “no one lives there” which seems to be the arguement just now.

    1. Alastair - I know the area quite well too. Greenshanks, divers, Golden Plover and great views.

      1. Mark a small group of (possible NIMBY-using-environmental-issues-as-cover) locals are calling for the launch site to be re-located to the north coast of Unst directly amid the Hermaness SSSI, SPA, NNR and Saxa Vord coastal SPA. Which is worse in your view? The Mhoine site seems to be outside the the SSSI designated area (based on the coords provided by the local agency: "The location of the primary launch pad has co-ordinates as follows. Latitude (approx.) 58 deg 32 min North Longitude (approx.) 4 deg 31 min West Map reference UK National Grid NC 543 624"). The Saxa Vord site is directly adjacent to large populations of seabirds. (https://sitelink.nature.scot/site/8512 , https://sitelink.nature.scot/site/776)

  3. When will the halfwits, numbwits and people and development always come first tossers start to realise that wild places, especially those that have some designation are IMPORTANT and leave be. I suppose for some of them when we are totally built upon. To misquote a Cree indian saying " It is only when all the trees are dead and all the fish gone that the white man will learn that you cannot eat money"

  4. Well yes, having spent some blissful time on Loch Eriboll, we do know the area, but not the news about the Space Port.
    Still, having watched the debate about Coull links and the proposed new golf course in an area that already has ten, the destruction of a beautiful area around Loch Fleet and councillors that have been ‘bought’, nothing surprises us anymore.
    And if we moan about concrete and jobs and the local economy, we will be just outsiders who don’t know ‘Our Place’.

    With any luck, the first passenger flight out will carry all the people who will be for it, and will never come back.

  5. Great, another nuclear target plunked down in Scotland by England. I bet all the revenue from this venture flows directly into Westminster pockets and is administered by Westminster too.

  6. This seems quite a reasonable proposal, compared with the serious idea of using the Caithness
    flows for testing nuclear weapons in the 1940s

  7. Put on Trump's golf course at Turnbury. He likes missiles and rockets.
    This rivals HS2 for environmental destruction and a complete waste of time and money.

  8. I would prefer it not to be built on the peninsula.
    However, if this is such an advantageous area, and depending on the exact site, I think it will be a
    hundred times less environmentally damaging, and intrusive, than the forestry plantations to the
    East, or just a small number of the fish farms that blight the West coast, and Hebrides.
    It may even be possible to croud fund a satellite to monitor Grouse moors, or Pheasant release sites.

  9. Mark, you did not mention it is also part of the Caithness & Sutherland Ramsar site, so it is quad-badged. We learnt in Holyrood last week that Ramsar is definitely being treated in Scotland as a weaker badge than in England and Wales. It is only to be applied to SPAs, in terms of assessment of developments. This looks like it allows the Scottish Government to allow golf development at Coul, because it has passed assessment for SPA (on very dodgy data) and does not have a SAC lifebelt to fend off developers.

  10. https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-planned-spaceport-in-sutherland-north-scotland

  11. I thought the Scottish Gov wanted to remain good European citizens - they could make a start by upholding EU nature directives.

    1. Rowena - thank you. Good point! Although it looks like Westminster have had a lot to do with this - just guessing.

  12. And its peat, which burns... Now isn't that sensible for a rocket launch site?! The moors near me in north Wales have been burning for weeks with the dry weather. How on earth would they cope with a moorland fire here! And the argument about local jobs... the plan i've seen shows a lot of concrete and a small shed - no offices for people to work.. This is my second home, and i've been visiting since i was 10 (40 years) it makes a travesty of the wildlife protection system if this is permitted.

  13. This plan is the latest in trashing Scotland's wild spaces - despite the constant branding of Scotland as a wild haven. The unique bogland of the north has seen firing ranges, Dounreay, forestry plantations, wind turbines and now a rocket launch site (with all the infrastructure this involves).
    What is surprising is the absence of any debate in the media. For example, why is the infrastructure at Dounreay not chosen - if the the north is so important?
    Interestingly, the Highland Enterprise spokesperson likened the rocket project to Dounreay, celebrating the latter for bringing 55 years of prosperity - although the land is unsafe for at least 300 years apparently. The BBC recently reported that a possible use for the Dounreay site is a wildlife reserve - no sign of irony intended. Also, in all the politician talk of jobs, we haven't heard how many people in the Durness Tongue area are looking for work. Have they got the skills? Will they be guaranteed a job or will the jobs go to people brought in especially?
    The fact that this project is supported mainly for bringing in jobs just shows how poor the politicians have been at supporting sustainable development.

  14. Is launching rockets, with all the infrastructure and pollution involved, now classed as a form of cultivation and acceptable as a purposeful use by the Crofting Commission? Or maybe the Melness Estate crofters are proposing to decroft it all?

  15. People are missing the real action - 1km from the nearby SSSI and 3km from the magical Hermaness NNR, with strong military connections:-



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