THE thought of wild and spacious Sutherland becoming the centre of a new space race is a thrilling one. Not only will it bring jobs and prosperity to the area, it will mean the north of our country playing a major part in the future UK economy.

The Mhoine peninsula, between Tongue and Durness, is to become the UK’s first spaceport, having been chosen as the best place for vertical rocket and satellite launches. Though partly chosen for its remoteness from major centres of population, there are still many people in the area who will benefit from the economic boost, particularly in the wake of the decommissioning of Dounreay nuclear plant.

Our commiserations go to Prestwick, Unst, and Newquay airport, Cornwall, which had also hoped to host the spaceport. It’s some consolation that the first and third named of these will benefit from a new £2 million fund for horizontal launch spaceports.

As for Sutherland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise will receive £2.5 million from the UK Government to develop the spaceport, at a time when nearly one-fifth of the UK’s space industry is already based in Scotland.

Our country is getting a foothold in space. And space promises much. UK Business Secretary Greg Clark hopes Britain’s share of the global space economy will rise from 6.5 per cent now to 10 per cent by 2010, while estimates suggest space flights could boost the UK economy by £4 billion in the next decade.

Even here, though, Brexit rears its bewildering head, with aerospace trade group ADS warning of rising costs and a consequent erosion in investment if a good deal isn’t reached with the EU. Which takes us to our leader. After Donald Trump’s flights of fancy, Theresa May, will be glad to get her feet back on the ground at the Farnborough International Airshow today, where she’ll claim a new relationship with Europe will strengthen Britain’s position as an aerospace nation. She’ll also announce £343m of investment in research and development.

Among all this seeming positivity, it’s fair to note there have been grumblings. Online voices in England are asking what happens if Scotland becomes independent. And there’s been disquiet about the impact on an area that already has a live Nato firing range. Roads will probably have to be built, while existing ones have become busier with the success of the NC 500 tourist route.

But tourism brings prosperity. The new spaceport will probably become a visitor attraction in itself. At any rate, we’re sure such problems can be overcome. We look forward to a new era for Sutherland, where salmon leap up the River Shin, birds soar up from the sea cliffs of Handa, and rockets roar forth from A’Moine.