My Column

Its time for us to reach for the stars.

  • Date: Monday 15th July 2019
column Picture

Following a recent cinema trip to see the latest Men in Black movie, it got me thinking – what’s Scotland doing to reach for the stars?

Turns out that the truth is out there – and by ‘there’, I mean right under our noses with no cloaking devices required.

While the MiBs’ intergalactic police force continues to go global on the big screen, it seems Scotland’s space sector is creating a big bang, not only for the country’s economy, but the impressive level of innovation and development we’re now showcasing on the national stage.

From small steps such as a growing number of space-tech SMEs, to giant leaps like the announcement of the UK’s very first spaceport launching as early as next year on the northern tip of Scotland, we’re firmly on the launch pad and counting down to this modern day space race.

The aforementioned spaceport has already seen Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) handed a generous £2.5m towards development costs from the UK government, with Shetland, Prestwick and Campbeltown also set for their own launch sites.

Even last week, a stratospheric balloon was fired into the great unknown from Shetland Space Centre, marking our first trek to the stars – although it’s safe to say that we’re a wee while away from packing our bags to Mars just yet.

Despite this, the economic benefits of the Scottish space sector are seeing lift-off with the industry set to be worth an estimated £4 billion by 2030, according to a report from Innovation Minister Ivan McKee earlier this year.

Nearly a fifth of all UK space jobs are based in Scotland and that number is ambitiously rising as findings from a 2018 UK Space Industry report showed a 27 per cent increase in the number of space-related organisations in Scotland.

And while it may come as quite a surprise to some, the gravity of the situation is clear when you hear that Glasgow is known across the sector as ‘the satellite capital of the UK’. In fact, by building more satellites than any other city across Europe over the past two years, the city has shown that its shipbuilding roots have evolved into something else entirely.

The spirit of adventure remains the same – we’re just mapping out a very different region and setting our sights far higher.

Contemplating our burgeoning space-tech sector conjures up images of the kind of intergalactic behemoths which you expect a Bond villain to plot the end of the world from – but separating the sci-fi from the sci-facts, Glasgow has an extremely good turnaround on building these satellites.

That’s helped by the fact that they’re nano-satellites, which are something like the size of a loaf of bread or a six pack of Irn Bru.

Companies such as Clyde Space and Spire Global, both based in the heart of Glasgow, have contributed to over 100 satellites launched into space over just five years.

Some companies’ stated aims include churning out one satellite a week with hopes of eventually tripling production. So just think – every time you see a new column from me, another Scottish spacecraft may have been born.

 

Few things to me are as alien as the thought of exploring space, but with over 7,000 jobs created and more than £130 million contributed to the Scottish economy already, our space odyssey is well and truly here.

SIDE

There’s no denying that consumer retail habits are evolving, and it doesn’t take a genius to recognise that that’s in large part due to the growing popularity of online shopping. 

Just last week, a report from Retail Economics attempted to measure the pace of its growth, predicting that the internet will account for more than half of all our retail sales within a decade – more than double its current market share.

This growth of course poses an ongoing threat to bricks and mortar stores, and the jobs they support. You don’t have to look far to see evidence of retailers contracting their physical estate.

However, on the flip side, the growth of online retail should also open up different kinds of roles too.

And its strength is currently buoying the sector. Online sales were the only silver lining for retailers in last week’s June retail update from KPMG. The report suggested that we just experienced the worst June on record, but online sales excluding food were up 3.3 per cent.

Sure, there are other factors – chiefly Brexit – affecting consumer spending, but the growth of online cannot be overlooked.

Matalan, for one, experienced an online sales bump of 30 per cent in the first quarter of the year, it was revealed last week. However, the fashion and homeware retailer also saw in-store sales grow.

And in the food and drink arena, Lidl has just announced plans to create 500 jobs through 12 new stores in Scotland, from Dundee to Dumbarton. 

I’m sure the business community will be paying close attention to how these firms are bucking the trend.

 

LAUGH

I’m sure Glasgow University bosses were left gobsmacked when they were told about the size of a recent donation being made by one former student. In fact, I’d say it’s very possible they jumped for joy.

It was announced last week that alumnus John Shaw, who graduated back in 1970, and his wife have just donated more than £6m to the institution – no small change in anyone’s wallet. His time there clearly left a lasting impression on him.

The donation will not only help support a new research hub at the university’s Western campus but will also fund a new professional chair in precision oncology.  

This is wonderful news for the university and the city, not to mention an inspiring story for its current students. 

 

WEEP

No doubt foodies across the Central Belt will be weeping with joy now they finally have confirmation of the opening date for The Ivy Buchanan Street.

The restaurant chain – famed in London as a popular celeb hangout – is opening in the heart of Glasgow city centre in the ornate former Nationwide bank building on Buchanan Street at the end of the month.

It’s not a Scottish first, as the firm already has a restaurant in Edinburgh, but the 222-cover eaterie located in the heart of the Style Mile is likely to create quite a stir in the west nonetheless.

However, only time will tell if it finds the cult following of its sister restaurant. 

 

Back to column listings

Recent News

News Archive