THE COUNCIL should be doing more to map out the economic impact a spaceport would bring to Shetland, according to one elected member.
Shetland North councillor Tom Morton made the call at a meeting of Shetland Islands Council’s development committee on Monday.
“I think in that so much seems to be riding on this, it would be a really important piece of work to have done,” the Labour councillor said.
SaxaVord UK Spaceport, a private company, previously said a launch facility in Unst would eventually create around 140 jobs in the island and inject at least £4.9 million per annum into its economy.
The company added that it would provide a further 70 jobs throughout Shetland, creating an extra £2.9 million in gross value per annum to the economy.
But Morton was keen to see the council itself, which has broadly backed the idea of a spaceport in Unst, come up with its own economic analysis.
It comes after a report to councillors stated that the SIC has appointed Reference Economics to develop a study investigating the “potential new markets and future actions which may require to be taken to realise increased visitor impact as a result of the development”.
Morton asked, considering that “so much seems to hang on this project” such as fixed links and economic regeneration in the North Isles, if a wider study has been undertaken by the council.
Development director Neil Grant replied: “In terms of the overall economic impact of the project I’m sure SaxaVord Spaceport have done work on it, but the council has not sought to evaluate to the financial impacts in Shetland.
“What this [the new study] is about at the moment is making sure we get things like supply chain benefits.”
Grant also sought to clarify that the council itself is careful to differentiate between its roles of promoting economic development and overseeing planning and roads matters.
“Have we sat down and worked out the impact that that project can have in Shetland?” he added.
“It’s maybe a piece of work worth doing because we haven’t worked it out in those terms, in terms of its economic impact.”
Morton replied by saying that the space centre is “such a glamorous project – it captures everybody’s imagination”.
“Every time somebody mentions development in Shetland everybody says ‘oh, we’re going to have a spaceport in Unst’,” the councillor said.
“But we don’t know what the benefits actually will be, and I think we do need to know.”
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