Naomi Pryde: Scotland’s got a head start in the space race

Naomi Pryde: Scotland's got a head start in the space race

Naomi Pryde

Naomi Pryde examines the opportunities for Scotland’s space sector.

Scotland aims to be Europe’s leading space nation, with ambitious plans outlined in the Scottish Government’s Space Strategy. The space industry heralds endless commercial opportunities. According to the Bank of America, it’s projected to be worth $2.7 trillion by 2045.

Scotland’s geography makes it ideal to reach satellite orbits with vertically launched rockets. With several spaceports in development, Scotland is a sought-after destination for satellite launches and space exploration, consequently creating jobs and attracting investment to the country.

However, this also raises legal and regulatory challenges and the need for a robust legal framework.

Legal framework

Scotland’s approach to space law is essential for the growth and innovation of the space sector. With a supportive legal environment, Scotland adheres to the United Nations “Outer Space Treaty”, which emphasises the peaceful use of outer space and prohibits mass destruction weapons. The UK Space Industry Act 2018 provides the legal foundation for space activities in Scotland, covering spaceport licensing and spaceflight accidents liability. With its National Space Strategy, the UK Government underpins a supportive legal environment for the space sector’s growth and innovation.

Climate change

As Scotland’s space industry soars, balancing economic growth with environmental protection is becoming increasingly complex. Economic growth while preserving the world’s unique ecosystems is a delicate task requiring stringent regulations and environmental impact assessments. However, Scotland has an ambitious target to reduce major greenhouse gas emissions by 75 per cent minimum compared to a 1990/1995 baseline.

According to DLA Piper client Chris Newlands, Space Aye CEO and ranked the world’s fourth most influential space entrepreneur: “Scotland is taking a multi-faceted approach to the sector’s environmental impact, as reflected in the Scottish Space Sustainability Roadmap. Scotland’s location offers shorter launch trajectories, minimising impact on our fragile planet’s eco-system. Additionally, once launched, solar powered Low Earth Orbit satellites are designed to burn up as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere.”

Real-time insights from space could be critical to help make informed climate decisions. Space-based and satellite technologies already help tackle climate change by monitoring greenhouse gas emissions, climate patterns, deforestation, land-use, ocean, ice and glacier, weather and climate modelling, and agricultural adaptation. Scottish space tech company Space Aye merges real-time satellite imagery with Internet of Things data, generating a new weapon against wildfires which accelerate climate change. Identifying firefighters, their vehicles, and the fire location can increase responsiveness, extinguish fires, and reduce devastating environmental impact.

Scotland’s future role in Space law

Scotland’s space law evolution will be shaped by technological advancements, geopolitical considerations, and industry growth. As commercial space activities expand, the legal framework must remain flexible to emerging challenges.

Scotland’s commitment to nurturing a thriving space industry coupled with its robust legal structures positions it as a global space community key player.

Home to industry unicorns like Space Aye, Scotland continuously refines its space law and aligns with international standards, ensuring the sustainable exploration of the final frontier for generations to come.

Naomi Pryde is a partner at DLA Piper. This article first appeared in The Scotsman.

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