SCOTLAND is a country long associated with innovation. It goes without saying that the country of John Logie Baird and Alexander Graham Bell has an international reputation for world-class research and design.

Innovation is a key component of growth and competitive advantage for both businesses and nations. This is a tough economic climate, with the spectre of Brexit looming on the horizon. Investing in research and design to create new technology is the only way to preserve and build growth in the Scottish economy. I’m proud that Scotland is increasingly becoming an influential technology player. Not least of this is Scotland’s blossoming space sector, as risible as some Tory politicians may find the prospect.

Far from Adam Tomkins’s assertion that the Scottish space industry is “science fiction”, this is a serious business. Scotland accounts for 18 per cent of jobs in the UK space industry, with less than nine per cent of the population. The space sector contributes more than 7000 Scottish jobs and more than £130 million to the economy.

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And Glasgow is now the satellite capital of Europe, building more satellites than any other European city. These satellites are used for GPS, television and other things that we take for granted every day.

I had the pleasure of meeting staff at Spire in Glasgow a few weeks ago and was able to see for myself the passion, drive and enthusiasm that exists in this industry. They have around 20 entirely Glasgow-made satellites in orbit currently, with several more ready for use. Spire, and many companies like it, are increasingly expanding and investing in Scotland’s workforce and skills.

Politically, many people would criticise the investment in space technology when there are people living in poverty in Scotland. I have some sympathy with that perspective, representing some of the most deprived areas in Scotland. However, this is not a frivolous area of the economy. It’s a growth sector which provides jobs for many families, and more still in its subsidiary industries. Innovative growth benefits everyone and provides vital funds for our public services.

It’s a sector which supports our higher education system. Strong investment in innovation combined with free tuition and increased widening access for young people from deprived backgrounds is a way that many disadvantaged young people can be lifted out of poverty.

The campaign for a spaceport in Prestwick is gaining strength. Ayrshire is an area of Scotland which was hit hard by deindustrialisation. Any proposal which will bring back highly skilled jobs and a boost for tourism to this area should be welcomed with open arms. Even the UK Government has prioritised plans to establish a spaceport before 2018 – of which they might like to remind their colleagues in Scotland.

It’s possible that space is beyond the final frontier of the Scottish Tories’ ambition for Scotland, but that’s not saying much. I’m confident that this is no indication that it can’t be a tremendous success.