A publicly-run spaceport at Prestwick Airport, which is already owned by the Scottish Government, has emerged as a serious possibility.

SNP MP Carol Monaghan, who sits on the influential Commons Science and Technology Committee, said there was "no reason" why a Prestwick spaceport should not be developed under public ownership or control.

The House of Lords is currently considering amendments to the Space Industry Bill which will put in place the legislative framework for licensed spaceports and commercial space activity in the UK.

There are currently a number of sites under consideration in Scotland including Machrihanish, Sutherland, and Prestwick.

“There’s been a lot of talk about Prestwick," Monaghan said. "It has quite a few advantages, it’s easy to get there, it has a clear run out to sea.

“There’s lots of things about Prestwick that make it good. It already has a number of companies springing up around it which already have Scottish Government funding and investment in them.

“There’s a space cluster already developing around Prestwick. We also have a satellite cluster developing in Glasgow so it would make great sense if we can start launching Glasgow-built satellites 30 miles away in our Prestwick spaceport.

She added, “That would be fantastic and allow a very strong cluster in the Central Belt of Scotland which would be brilliant."

In a clear marker of intent on a Scottish spaceport, wherever it is sited, Monaghan said “The Scottish Government could be the people that are running it. It could be nationally owned. There’s no reason why that couldn’t be the case.”

Nearly 20 per cent of jobs in the UK’s space industry – more than 7,000 people – are in Scotland, more than double the proportion of the UK’s population. The industry is worth more than £130 million to the Scottish economy and more satellites are built in Scotland than any other country in Europe.

Prestwick Airport – owned by the Scottish Government but operated on a commercial basis – signed a deal with Houston Spaceport in 2016 to benefit the development of a spaceport.

The agreement gives Prestwick access to expertise and training from the Texas site, which has existing agreements with Nasa.

“At the moment there’s five sites that all look good in Scotland," Monaghan said. "There’s also one in Wales and one in Cornwall but neither are as good. Having no urban, built-up locations and a clear run out to sea makes our locations extremely good.

She added, "But there’s also sites in the north of Scotland that you could launch vertically from which makes them quite interesting as well.”

One of these potential sites is located at the A’Mhoine peninsula between Dounreay and Cape Wrath in Sutherland.

A consortium, which includes US aerospace firm Lockheed Martin, has submitted a detailed proposal for the development of the facility to the UK Space Agency (UKSA) and meeting have already taken place with Highland Council.

Monaghan points out that an area which is granted a spaceport licence will bring in massive economic benefits for the region.

“Once a site meets the criteria and markets itself as a spaceport it will pull in different businesses that want to be based around the spaceport.

“If we had an operating spaceport in Scotland it would transformational for that particular area.

“If you look at the Kennedy Space Centre, they have a visitor centre and all sorts of tourist sites have sprung up locally and lots of small businesses have sprung up locally around it. I can see it having a massive impact in Scotland

“It’s really exciting that potentially we could be drawing all this investment into Scotland, both from technology base and also from tourism, education and opening up the transport links.

“There is massive potential for is space tourism and going up to the edge of the atmosphere and getting the space flight experience. That’s something we could really be marketing ourselves as, a space tourism area. It’s just a really exciting time for Scottish space.”

A spokesperson for Prestwick Airport said the airport plans to apply for a spaceport licence as soon as the Space Industry Bill is enacted but that it’s too early to say how it will be operated.

“Glasgow Prestwick Airport aims to become the first commercial spaceport in the UK and Europe,” the spokesperson told the Sunday Herald.

“This means we will be able to offer horizontal launches of orbital and sub-orbital missions for satellite launches, micro-gravity experiments and passenger spaceflight experiences.

“There are many different ways the Spaceport could be operated and at this stage it is too early to say which business model will be the most appropriate.”