A crofter behind bringing the UK’s first spaceport to Sutherland is to address the COP26 conference about the importance of restoring peatlands.
Melness Crofters Estate chairwoman Dorothy Pritchard will speak at ‘The Rights and Cultures of Peat’ event at the global conference on Friday.
She will share a pre-recorded presentation before taking part virtually in a live question and answer session.
Why should we restore peatlands?
The restoration of peatlands is considered crucial in combatting climate change.
Peatland restoration has been made a top priority in the Scottish Government’s bid to become a net-zero society by 2045.
In Sutherland, the new spaceport is aiming to become the world’s first carbon neutral facility of its kind.
In a bid to offset the impact of construction, over 76.9 hectares of peatland will be restored.
Peat removed in construction will be reused at different sites, including areas where historic extraction has taken place.
It will also be used in areas where drains have been constructed.
Floating roads will also be created, sitting on top of the peat and minimising disruption to the valuable source.
Only around 10 acres of the estate’s 10,700 acres of land will be impacted by fencing to create the exclusion zone, allowing native wildlife to move freely on the peninsula.
Other areas will be rewetted to reverse the environmental impacts of drainage.
COP26 will put spaceport on global stage
Previously the announcement of the spaceport’s creation on the A’ Mhòine peninsula arguably put the area on the map.
Now, Mrs Pritchard believes the inclusion of the project at the conference is “putting it on the global stage”.
Mrs Pritchard said: “Peat cutting played a big part in community life and culture here in Sutherland as hard-working crofters once used peat to heat their homes.
“However, we now know that healthy peatland plays a crucial role in reducing the impact of global warming.
“This is an opportunity to shine a light on the hard work, commitment and dedication of those who are bringing the world’s first carbon-neutral spaceport to life whilst ensuring peat restoration is considered at each stage.
Communities need to have their say
Mrs Pritchard hopes the Sutherland spaceport can be used as an example at the global summit of the input of a small community in driving forward a sustainable development.
She added: “I have been watching COP and a lot of the things the indigenous people have been saying, people who have had their lands taken away, is that they were not consulted.
“I don’t feel there is enough consultation. It worries me the way land issues are being dealt with in Scotland.
“Communities are not having their say. It is large corporations, large individual landowners who are coming in and buying up land for their benefit and their vision.”
She added: “I would like communities to see that they can engage in a development and can still mitigate against their carbon footprint in a way that is sustainable if they galvanise as a community and come together.
“To me it is about engaging with local communities and not just paying them lip service.”
The first launch at the Sutherland spaceport is scheduled to take place in 2022.