Extinction Rebellion Scotland join Protect the Mhoine to call for international support in rejecting Space Hub Sutherland planning application

The Flow Country, ‘Scotland’s Amazon’, Europe’s largest peat bog and carbon sink, is under serious threat from a reckless and potentially extremely damaging spaceport development

  • Planning application has been submitted for a proposed Space Hub which puts precious and rare natural ecosystem The Flow Country – Scotland’s Amazon – at risk.

  • Protect The Mhoine and Extinction Rebellion Scotland launch an informative video to garner support https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYrBInkSrss

  • PTM and XR Scotland call on the international community to rally in support and submit comments to the planning application https://sutherlandspaceport.link/comment deadline March 12th.

Call +44 7507 888 837 for more information, images and interviews. 

Excellent interviewees available in Sutherland. 
www.xrscotland.org www.protectthemhoine.com www.facebook.com/xrscotland www.facebook.com/Protect-the-Mhoine-310958926351669/ 

Images: Protect The Mhoine

This week, the Space Hub Sutherland project submitted their application to the Highland Council for the development of a rocket launch facility over 800 acres of the Flow Country, on the A’Mhòine Peninsula. The application is open for comments. [1] 

This vast blanket bog of Caithness and Sutherland, known as the Flow Country, is Europe’s largest peat bog. It stores approximately 400 million tonnes of carbon (more than double the amount of all of Britain’s woodlands), is a rare and precious wildlife haven, and a potential applicant for UNESCO World Heritage status.

Tasha Allen, Melness resident and parent, said:I’ve lived here my whole life, within a mile of the site and have four young children. We are so privileged to bring up our children in this beautiful, untouched landscape. We need to teach our younger generations how important our planet’s resources are, it’s not all about money! How can this go ahead in a climate crisis? It’s not someone else’s problem, it’s everyone’s problem!

Gordon McEwan, Recycling Centre operator and shareholder on the Melness Crofters Estate commented; “I moved from Ayrshire with my two young boys and wife to get away from the noise and all that goes with life in towns and cities. This beautiful, remote and wild place will be ruined with this global vandalism in the name of apparent ‘progress and jobs’. As the saying goes, ‘there are no jobs on a dead planet’. Our planet and all the ecosystems on it, including this one, sustain us. They are our life line. We must stop destroying what keeps us alive in the name of short term profit.”

The proposed spaceport will put the fragile peatland ecosystem huge risk, be that through fuel leaks, pollution or explosions. 

Sarah Bird, conservation biologist said; “Any damaging development on this fragile peat bog ecosystem – which is so significant for our fight against climate change – is just wrong. If we upset that balance of chemicals in the ground or the water levels there and things dry out, then you begin to lose the peat. Which is critical, because that’s carbon going out into the atmosphere.”

Peat is highly flammable, it has been used for fuel for centuries. This was proved in the Sutherland wildfire last summer, which raged for six days over 20,000 acres. Scientists estimated that the carbon released by the wildfire doubled Scotland’s emissions over those six days. [1] 

Holly Gillibrand, youth environmental activist, Fort William, commented; “The idea that, in the midst of a climate and ecological emergency, a spaceport may be built on a rare ecosystem and a site of globally important carbon storage is ludicrous. Politicians talk about restoring peatlands and protecting species, but when you’re in a hole, you don’t keep making it deeper; you stop digging. We need to stop making this even harder for ourselves.”

Kate Willis, Extinction Rebellion Highlands and Islands said: “The Scottish Government and Highland Council have declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency; the development of the Mhoine spaceport, and the environmental impacts and carbon emissions resulting from its construction and regular launch of rockets, is contradictory to this declaration. Future generations need a planet that is habitable with functioning ecosystems. Continued investment in high carbon emitting developments is leading to rapid climate and ecological breakdown, which will not leave Scotland, or the planet, in a fit state for our children and grandchildren. Investment must focus on development of a green low carbon economy and rewilding, particularly in sensitive areas such as the Flow Country.”

Life on Earth is in crisis. Scientists agree we have entered a period of abrupt climate breakdown, and we are in the midst of a mass extinction of our own making. This is a climate and ecological emergency. Last year, Highland Council declared one. In a month where Scotland has seen planning proposals rejected “in light of the climate and ecological emergency” for the deforestation of ancient woodland by East Lothian Council [2] and for a gas station by Fife Council, Highland Council has a responsibility to respond to this emergency accordingly.

While the Scottish Government ploughs money into restoring degraded peat lands [4] and planting trees, building a spaceport right on a uniquely precious ecosystem and massive carbon sink is not an emergency response.  

About Extinction Rebellion Scotland 

Extinction Rebellion Scotland is a non-violent direct-action movement formed to take urgent action in the face of climate emergency and ecological catastrophe, as part of the global justice movement.

Our demands, issued as a Declaration of Rebellion to the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government on 24th November 2018, are as follows;

  1. That the Scottish Government tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, acknowledge and reverse any policies that help drive the climate crisis, and commit to enabling a rapid and just transition to a sustainable and fair society.
  2. That the Scottish Government enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025, including by replacing a system based on accelerating consumption with one based on ensuring the wellbeing of all.
  3. The creation of a legally binding Scottish Climate Citizens’ Assembly to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose and a society that cares for all.


[1] https://wam.highland.gov.uk/wam/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=makeComment&keyVal=Q5CD2AIHKTF00

(As comment): It will help if you make specific reference to the site’s protected designations as SSSI, RAMSAR and SPA, and to Highland Council’s Declaration of Climate and Ecological Emergency, or other ‘material considerations’ as only these will be considered. More advice on pp.9 and 10 of this doc: https://www.planningdemocracy.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/PD_HOW-TO-RESPOND_Feb-2020.pdf

[2] https://www.forestryjournal.co.uk/news/18215582.museum-flight-plan-turned-tree-loss/

[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-51282806

[4] An estimated 80% of Scottish peatlands are degraded. Restoring them has rightly become a priority for the Scottish Government, with the Climate Change Plan aiming to restore 617,800 acres of peatland by 2030. Over £10 million was spent at the recently completed ‘Flows to the Future’ project at Forsinard Reserve in the Flow Country, restoring land drained by ill thought-out forestry enterprise in the 80s.