A new £200million vision for Moray could help the region reach for the stars.
The council and businesses are spearheading a growth deal bid for the area to attract newcomers to the region while retaining young people.
During a visit yesterday, the Scottish Government’s minister for transport, infrastructure and connectivity, Michael Matheson, toured Forres-based Orbex to inspect its mission control and design base for rockets which are intended for use at the proposed spaceport in Sutherland.
The MSP believes that a funding boost from Holyrood and the UK Government could help create a “transformational” wave of aerospace jobs across Moray.
He said: “The very specialised and advanced engineering work Orbex is involved in is an opportunity to build on in the years ahead.
“We want to look at how we can build on new industries, particularly aerospace, in the local area with public and private sectors to make sure the economy is expanding.”
He added: “Moray’s economy, given its manufacturing base in the whisky industry, is absolutely critical to Scotland. We want to encourage other firms to be based here to create high-wage jobs in the future and encourage young people to stay.”
Negotiations have started between the team in charge of Moray’s growth deal bid and the UK and Scottish governments to decide what projects are funded.
Included in the initial proposals is a £14million manufacturing factory to future-proof the sector in the region – focusing on energy, food processing, forestry and creative industries.
Donna Chisholm, Highland and Island Enterprise’s area manager for Moray, said: “Space is a significant opportunity for the whole of the north of Scotland – particularly for Moray, given our long tradition of aerospace and aviation skills.
“We want to see as much activity in the sector here as possible because it is high-pay, it’s international and it’s very good for the economy.”
Attracting talent to the region while retaining youngsters has been made one of the main priorities of the growth deal bid.
Other potential projects include an expansion of Moray College UHI with two new campuses in Elgin and a new gas pipeline to aid distilleries.
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said: “The growth deal is absolutely essential for Moray to grow the economy.
“It was great to have the partners represented and to get an update on their efforts to develop projects that could be transformative for our area.”