Space Hub Approved, Despite 400 Objections

As Highland Council approve Space Hub Sutherland, Extinction Rebellion Scotland supports Protect the Mhoine, the local group campaigning against the development in light of the climate and ecological emergency.

Yesterday, despite over 400 objections and with shaky evidence of mass job creation [1], the Highland Council’s Planning Committee approved planning permission for a rocket launch pad on the A’Mhoine peninsula peat bog in Sutherland. If it goes ahead, Space Hub Sutherland will launch rockets over the Flow Country on the A’Mhòine Peninsula. 

Protect the Mhoine and Extinction Rebellion Scotland demand that the Scottish Government review this decision in light of Scotland’s commitments to the Paris Agreement. 

Wildfires caused by accidents from the Space Port are a very real threat. This location was chosen precisely because it is so remote, on a North facing coast and surrounded by open countryside – in case a rocket launch goes wrong. [2] Peat is highly flammable. 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. [3]

As Scotland reports missing its own emissions reductions targets [4], anything which puts the Flow Country at risk is irresponsible and dangerous. 

The science is very clear, we are in an emergency. We are currently on track for 4˚C warming if emissions do not rapidly go down. As the leading climate scientist, Professor Johan Rockstrom has recently warned, a 4˚C world implies the loss of not just millions but billions of human lives [5].

This vast blanket bog of Caithness and Sutherland, known as the Flow Country, is Europe’s largest peat bog. This bog is central to our fight against climate change. 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. This potentially devastating move makes a mockery of the Highland Council’s own Climate Emergency Declaration in 2019, where they promised to “become an exemplar in respect of how a region can address the climate and ecological emergency.” [6] 

The RSPB objected to the application because “it has not demonstrated that the development would not adversely affect the Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands Special Protection Area (which is a protected area for internationally important populations of birds) and Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands Special Area of Conservation (which is protected for its amazing peatland habitat” [7]

XR Scotland acknowledge the support of the spaceport from many people in the area due to potential economic opportunities, and recognise that this part of the country has been historically decimated and continues to be left behind. However, the ‘divide and rule’ tactics [8] of those with interests in the space port, in pursuit of a site chosen precisely because, in the case of a rocket launch going wrong, it is so remote and surrounded by water and open countryside, is yet another example of systemic devaluing of the land and people of the Highlands [9]. The prospect of jobs looks increasingly bleak. Protect the Mhoine campaigners argue, ‘If we, as a community, are being asked to sacrifice our wild landscape in return for jobs, then we deserve to know how many we can expect, for how long, and if this is sustainable. We do not have that information. HIE has consistently revised-down their jobs projections’.

The group from Melness, located within a mile of the launch exclusion zone where the launchpad just 2.4km from two family’s homes, has responded to the public narrative of local support being pushed by government and corporations alike saying “the majority of locals have not been part of the detailed discussions and have not had an opportunity to vote. Many people living locally were now afraid to voice a view.” [10]

Protect the Mhoine have begun a petition here: