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North Uist spaceport project could ‘overhaul’ role of Russian-linked company

Plans to build a rocket-launching spaceport in the Outer Hebrides could be a blow to ties with Russia, we can reveal.

The Western Isles Council has signaled it may have to order a ‘review’ of its partnership with consultancy firm Commercial Space Technologies (CST) Ltd, depending on future government advice.

The company is registered in the UK but has a long-standing relationship with Russia.

Scottish ministers on Thursday urged businesses to cut their ties with Russia amid international outrage over Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.

CST said it has sought advice from the UK government’s Department for International Trade.

The company is part of a consortium leading the Spaceport 1 project in North Uist.

North Uist

It works alongside the local authority, also known as Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and defense company QinetiQ.

The original plans attracted a deluge of objectionsbut have since been reduced.

CST, established in 1983, said it was based in the UK and described itself as a privately-owned, fully commercially funded company.

Moscow office

However, it has an office in Moscow, as well as London, with “native Russian-speaking staff”, and one of its four directors is a Russian national.

Two of the four directors of an associated company, Commercial Space Technologies (Services) Ltd, are registered with Companies House as Russian nationals based in Russia.

the Company Website states that it has “friendly working relations with all Russian launch suppliers” and that it “successfully markets high-tech products to and from the Russian Federation”.

Fireworks explode above the Kremlin during the 2020 New Year celebrations in Moscow, Russia.

A Western Isles Council spokesperson said: “Commercial Space Technologies Ltd is a UK based company with its registered office in London.

“Like thousands of other companies, they have offices in Moscow.

“They provide expert advice as part of the Spaceport Consortium and are a fully commercially funded private company, with clients in various countries, including Ukraine.”

“Future partnerships are subject to review”

However, he added: “Any future partnership agreement will be subject to review at the appropriate time and will reflect government decisions.”

CST director Alan Webb said it was a small consultancy firm based in the UK, with a main office in London and a representative office in Moscow.

“We are a fully commercially funded private company, with customers in various countries, including Ukraine,” he said.

“We provide specialist advice to the Spaceport Consortium and to UK government departments on matters relating to the space sector and launch activity.

General view of North Uist

“Our Moscow-based office’s status as a ‘representative’ means it is unable to accept payments.

“Furthermore, in our 40 years of business, we have never received any payment from the Russian government or Russian entities.

“As a commercial-only business, all of our revenue comes from international (mainly Western) clients, for whom we have negotiated launch services or commercial agreements in Russia.”

Mr Webb added: “Like thousands of other Western companies doing business in Russia, we had to work within the rules established by both sides.

“As a result, we have sought advice from the Department for International Trade and are complying with their advice regarding the current situation.”

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[North Uist spaceport scheme could ‘review’ role of Russia-linked firm]

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