A bid to bring a £45 million spaceport to a remote part of Scotland is under threat due to a dispute with crofters. 

Backers of the spaceport on the Melness Crofting Estate near Tongue in north Sutherland have backed the proposal that would see cutting-edge satellite technology coming to the Highlands. However, a dispute with local crofters has threatened to delay the project. 

The A’Mhoine peninsula in the north coast county of Sutherland, which is home to 150 people, was chosen by  the UK Space Agency as a launch site for rockets to carry “micro-satellites” into commercially desirable low orbits in July. 

The first launches were planned for the early 2020s. However, a legal battle could threaten the entire project according to reports in The Times

The creation of the spaceport, dubbed the British Cape Canaveral, would see the creation of 40 jobs in the area, with more than 400 elsewhere as a result of the launchpad, with the Highland and Island Enterprise saying it will propel Scotland into "a new space age."

Concerns over the environmental impact of the site have been raised however, with the land being part of a rare peat bog ecosystem according to a protest group against the creation of the site. Other concerns have been raised about the welfare of the white-tailed sea eagles and the impact the site would have on them. 

The land, which is controlled by the Melness Crofting Estate, have alleged that the community has been kept in the dark over the development, with three of the seven directors resigning as a result. 

In a vote, 18 of the 56 local crofters voted against the lease of land, with 27 voting for. Ten failed to vote. 

And now, a complaint over the process could be taken to the Scottish Land Court, which could take years to resolve.

So far, around £17 million has been raised for the project, with the UK Space Agency pledging £23.5 million. 

The Agency has stated that it believes the creation of the space port will have a limited impact on the ecosystem.

Speaking to the The Times on the issue, local councillor, Linda Munro said: "It's absolutely true that the community is divided, but not in equal proportions. 

"There are far more people pro the space port than there are against it. However, nobody can fully get behind it until they have the appropriate information, and that is not coming from HIE." 

Roy Kirk, HIE's spaceport project director, told BBC Scotland: "Melness was identified by UKSA as the preferred site and approved a £2.5m grant to HIE towards the facility's development.

"We have always stressed the project is subject to agreement being reached with the Melness Crofting Estate and that this is something on which they will need to consult their members before entering into any formal agreement.

"Meantime, we are developing the proposals with a view to submitting consent applications within the timescales set out, but again this is all subject to land lease agreement being reached with the estate."

He added: "We believe the spaceport will bring many benefits for the local economy and community, notably through rural job creation and community resilience.'

The UKSA said: "Scotland is the best place in the UK to reach in-demand satellite orbits with vertically launched rockets and there is a real opportunity here to capture the growing market for launching an estimated 2,000 small satellites by 2030.

"The proposed spaceport in Sutherland could create 400 jobs across Scotland and contribute to further growth of the UK's world-leading space sector."