A company run by the largest landowner in Scotland has invested £1.43 million in a new space centre set to open in Shetland, a move that appears to signal his preference in the northern space race.
Wild Ventures Limited, the investment arms of environmental organisation Wildland Limited, made the sizable contribution to the project, which underwent a consultation stage last month.
The proposal includes a vertical launch space port to be built at Lamba Ness on the island of Unst.
Earlier this month, Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, the owner of Wildland Limited, lodged a petition for a judicial review against a rival space port proposal in Sutherland.
A statement from the Shetland Space Centre (SSC) said: “Wild Ventures Limited has looked at all the prospective Scottish spaceport sites and they believe that the Shetland location combined with its business model affords the best chance for sustainable success for Scotland and the UK.”
Mr Povlsen, the owner of clothing chain Bestseller and largest single shareholder in online clothing store Asos, owns more than 221,000 acres of Scotland, concentrated largely in the Highlands.
Tim Kirkwood, chief executive of Wild Ventures Limited, said: “We have long been supportive of the idea that, if developed appropriately, the space industry can deliver great benefits for Scotland’s rural economy. What is needed is the right development in the right place.
“As a project involving an ex-RAF base, a brownfield site, a promising location, and now with backing from HIE, the UKSA and Lockheed Martin, it has become clear that Shetland Space Centre is a realistic investment prospect to be asked to be involved with.
“Even so, a planning application for a sensitive area has yet to be lodged and a high environmental bar will need to be thoroughly crossed.
“As a minority investor we look forward to watching its progress with interest.”
The UK Space Agency (UKSA) announced last month that Lockheed Martin would be transferring its satellite launch operations from Sutherland to Unst, a move welcomed by the SSC.
Despite the setback, the Sutherland development at A’Mhoine near Tongue continues to also be supported by the UKSA, and was granted planning permission by the Highland Council after the Scottish Government decided not to call it in.
The investment from Wild Ventures Limited appears to suggest Mr Povlsen has chosen his side in the ongoing space race.
Frank Strang, CEO of Shetland Space Centre, said: “They have done their diligence on the space economy and got to grips with their understanding of the industry and the commercial realities of the space sector.
“The Scottish Space Leadership Council and Scottish Spaceports Alliance are united in their belief that space is a force for good and that the technologies associated with the sector can be harnessed to support initiatives that protect the environment.
“All the various facets associated with the space sector, such as sustainability, STEM, education, business start-up, research and development and innovation, are core to the Wild Ventures ethos and we are completely aligned in our vision as to how space science and nature can combine to create an exemplar.”