Impact assessment of Scottish independence on the space sector

Macdonald, Malcolm and Smith, Lesley Jane (2014) Impact assessment of Scottish independence on the space sector. University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

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This politically neutral work explores the impact of independence on Scotland’s emerging, innovative and world leading civilian space sector. The ecosystem is explained and quantified, clarifying the distinction between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Union, which the White Paper, Scotland’s Future, has blurred. Aspects of the White Paper relating to the sector are highlighted and discussed. The proposed relationship between an independent Scotland (iScotland) and the UK Space Agency (UKSA) is unclear within the White Paper. As the spirit adopted in the White Paper is wherever possible to continue co-operation with existing UK bodies this scenario is considered, with membership of ESA via UKSA, alongside direct membership of ESA. Scottish independence could be said to be worth £15 – 20 million per year to the sector in the medium-term, and the long-term size and scale of the sector may be of order £100 million; almost triple the current size. However, this is dependent on the relationship established between iScotland and the rest-of-the-UK (rUK), and appears to require a contravention of the spirit of the White Paper. How iScotland chooses to maintain a formal relationship with UKSA is thus of vital importance, having both economic and legal implications. Seeking a continuing relationship would require agreement about delegation of ministerial power, sovereign funds and indemnity provisions in response to any government liability for damage. As regards membership of ESA and EUMETSAT in particular, the existing member states are required to agree to accession by iScotland and to set the conditions; any disruption or lack of access to international organisations, including the EU, could be a potentially significant problem. Post-independence, the scope of UK nationality, as opposed to citizenship, would also require clarification in the context of space and any on-going relationship with UKSA. The relationship with EUMETSAT via co-funding contributions to the Met Office requires further thought but does appear in principle to be a viable option. The same judgement of ‘viable’ can be reached when considering the Scottish government’s proposals around the Research Councils. However, whilst an approach may be viable, no assessment or judgement is offered as to its desirability from either an iScottish or rUK perspective.