Leader: The case for fiscal astronomy

GROUND control to Major Tam. Ground control to Major Tam. Take your protein pills and pit yer Tartan Tammy on.”

With apologies to David Bowie, the thought of a Caledonian space programme occurs, prompted by Scotland’s Astronomer Royal.

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Professor John Brown says we are a “small nation punching above its weight”, contrasting Scottish Government support for science which could “create scope for further space research” in this country, with the negligence of Westminster. Now Prof Brown is a learned man, deserving of his Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, but with Alex Salmond in his current mood we fear his remarks might encourage him to reach for the stars.

Will it be long before he challenging the Scotland Act of 1998 which, in an outrageous anti-Scottish conspiracy, reserved control over outer space to Westminster? We will probably find hidden in the SNP manifesto a commitment to braveheartedly go where no Scot has gone before.

He might set up our own space agency. The US has Nasa, we need the Scottish Astronomical Development Organisation, which will be known as Sad-o for short. Matching the oil debate, the First Minister will look heavenward and declare, “its oor dark matter”. But as a great tactician, we know Mr Salmond will have a fall-back position. If his bid to conquer space fails, we suspect he will settle for fiscal astronomy.