Scotland's richest man lobbied ministers over spaceport plans
One of Scotland’s richest men and largest landowners lobbied the Scottish Government hoping to halt plans for a spaceport in Sutherland.
Reports in The Herald following work by The Ferret state Wildland Limited, a company owned by Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen – who is also planning the major restoration of the Jenners shop building in Edinburgh – lobbied former rural economy minister Fergus Ewing on the project.
The letter claimed the company’s future investments could be impacted by the spaceport with the company defending its decision to lobby the government, stating that it was an opportunity to raise concerns around the environmental impact of the plans.
Mr Povlsen, who made his money through the retailer Bestseller and online clothes shop Asos, is reportedly worth £6 billion.
The Ferret reported that the billionaire has campaigned against the spaceport plans for Sutherland proposed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise which is planned to be close to one of his estates with his involvement including taking Highland Council to court to overturn planning permission for the project.
He has also invested £1.5m in a competing spaceport planned for Unst in the Shetland Islands.
On January 30, 2020, Wildland’s chief executive Tim Kirkwood wrote to Mr Ewing following a ministerial visit and meeting with the company around climate change.
He wrote: “At the meeting we touched upon HIE’s involvement as developer of the proposed Sutherland Space Hub.
"It would be very unfortunate if the dilemma ultimately boils down to a choice that Wildland has to make about continuing with its ambitions for its north coast estate or not.
"It seems to me that a launch facility in Shetland and the Wildland developments in Tongue present a win/win.”
Included in the letter was references to planned investment in the North Coast 500 tourist road trip and Inverness Castle, The Ferret reported.
This led to criticism from local groups that the company was acting as “manipulators” and like “cowboys in the wild west”.
Responding, Mr Kirkwood defended the company’s role.
He told The Ferret: “This was a meeting held in January 2020 at the minister’s request to discuss a range of topics, from Wildland’s woodland and conservation plans and the role we’re playing in support of Scotland’s national climate change agenda, to potential investment by Wildland in a number of strategic tourism projects in the north,” he told The Ferret.
“In conversation we took the opportunity to raise long-standing and well-known concerns about the proposed Sutherland space hub and articulate our support for the protection of such an important, environmentally vulnerable landscape and the protected species that it contains.
"Those matters are the subject of an ongoing judicial review and it would be inappropriate to comment further on them at this time.”
“We are taking forward an extensive programme of investment both in and around our north coast and other estates.”
“We are continuing to work constructively with ministers and other key stakeholders to increase understanding of our long-term vision for landscape conservation and the shared economic opportunities we want to help realise for the highlands and islands.”
The Scotsman also contacted Wildland for comment.
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