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Politics / ‘We are entirely within our rights’ Strang insists

The SaxaVord space port is expected to host the first vertical satellite launching the UK late in 2022. Image: Rory Gillies for SaxaVord (UK) Spaceport

THE CHIEF executive of SaxaVord Spaceport has strongly defended the conduct and integrity of Tory MP Mark Garnier, who chairs the project’s advisory board.

Frank Strang said the company would continue to work with the MP for Wyre Forest, a former investment banker and the vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on space, “until such time as the parliamentary rules say he cannot”.

On Monday, the Commons standards committee suggested banning MPs from working as paid consultants, and for MPs to have written contracts for any outside work. The proposal will now be consulted upon and is expected to be voted on in spring next year.

Following a robust exchange of views between Shetland News and SaxaVord Spaceport as a result of our investigation last week, Strang said the company is entirely within its rights to employ the MP as a paid advisor.

Tory MP’s paid role in Shetland space project shows ‘rot at the heart of Westminster’

 

He said apart from the islands’ own parliamentary representatives very few politicians would ever speak up for Shetland nationally.

“Mark Garnier is a man of the utmost integrity and since joining the Shetland Space Centre advisory board he has been absolutely assiduous in both declaring an interest to the parliamentary standards committee and reminding me at every board meeting what he can and cannot do to support us,” Strang said.

“He has been a huge advocate for all things Shetland, not just SaxaVord, and other than our own MP Alistair Carmichael and Beatrice Wishart MSP I have not seen the corridors of Westminster or Holyrood crawling with senior figures wanting to promote Shetland’s cause.

“I would point out that Tavish Scott [a director of Shetland Space Centre Ltd] when a sitting MSP also declared an interest in the company and similarly never overstepped the rules. There are hundreds of examples of MPs and MSPs on all sides of the political spectrum participating in advisory roles.

“As in all walks of life there will be those that work within the rules and those that may not, but I find it totally unacceptable to castigate an individual who has done nothing wrong or untoward.”

Strang added: “Mark is a valued member of our team and we will continue to work with him until such time as the parliamentary rules say he cannot.

“To be absolutely clear, Mark is not in breach of parliamentary rules and SaxaVord is entirely within its rights to employ him in an advisory role, as indeed it is to employ an MP of any political party.

“Mark’s advice relates to his wider knowledge of the space industry and finance. All lobbying is handled by our in-house team, and political engagement is done via our MP and MSP.”