Space Industry

– in the Scottish Parliament on 20th June 2019.

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Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

The First Minister will be aware of the importance of Scotland’s space industry, its potential for growth and our expertise in satellite technology. Does she, therefore, share my disappointment with the decision by the Natural Environment Research Council, overseen by the United Kingdom Government, to withdraw funding for Scotland’s only satellite receiving centre at the University of Dundee, which has been praised for the work that it has done by NASA—the National Aeronautics and Space Administration—and others, bringing the future of the centre into question? Is the First Minister aware that discussions between the university, Clyde Space and others with a commercial interest in maintaining the station appear to have reached an impasse and will she, therefore, ask her minister to work with parties involved in the hope of finding a way ahead that could safeguard the future of the centre, which has faithfully served the space community for more than 50 years?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

I thank Shona Robison for raising the issue and agree whole-heartedly with her about the huge potential of the space and satellite industry in Scotland. We already have a very visible presence in the space sector globally, more small satellites are manufactured in Glasgow than in any other place in Europe and almost one fifth of the UK’s space-sector jobs rest here in Scotland.

I share the member’s concerns about the implications of the Natural Environment Research Council decision to cut funding to the station. I am also aware of the apparent impasse in discussions with commercial parties. Scottish Enterprise is engaged to find a way forward that preserves the assets of the satellite receiving centre and retains the related expertise in Scotland. I am somewhat constrained in what I can say, and what we can disclose, in terms of the content of on-going commercial discussions, but I will ask the relevant minister to look into the matter further and write to the member with an update as soon as possible.