Scotland’s ‘cutting-edge’ space industry can lead Europe, innovation minister Richard Lochhead told investors at a forum in Edinburgh.

Mr Lochhead said that the satellite manufacturing strengths of Glasgow and Scotland’s geographical location were combining to make the country a perfect place for the sector.

In a keynote address to the Space Investment Forum at Dynamic Earth in the capital, he said: “We have big ambitions to be Europe’s leading space nation. The sector could be worth £4 billion and employ 20,000 people, that’s why space is one of the key industries the Scottish Government has pinpointed as an economic priority.

“Recent developments mean we are, quite genuinely, on the cusp of something new and exhilarating. We are ideally located for launching satellites into orbit and projects at SaxaVord and Sutherland are progressing well. Our biggest city, Glasgow, hosts a thriving satellite manufacturing hub and our space supply chain is working flat out to grasp the transformational opportunities presented.”

He added: “These range from developing zero emissions rocket launches to using data generated from space to tackle climate change. Space opens a window that allows mankind to observe our world with ever greater clarity.

“Scotland has set some of the most ambitious targets for cutting emissions anywhere. The space industry can propel our green and growing economy to new heights.”

The event, organised by the UK Space Agency, heard how SaxaVord Spaceport in Shetland is in line to host the UK’s first vertical launch later this year. Customers for small satellite launches have signed up from the US and Europe.