Scotland’s climate and geography has come to the rescue of its economy in the past and is ideally placed, to do so again.

The density of its populations around the Clyde, Forth and Tay rivers made it a natural centre for heavy industry in the 19th and 20th centuries.

That’s now ancient history but with the advent of the technology-led fourth industrial revolution, Scotland is, once again, ideally placed to lead development.

Scotland’s unique climate and topography has already made it a global centre for renewable energy and it’s now poised to be a “living laboratory” for aviation and aerospace testing, the UK Government has been told.

A report to the Department for Transport (DfT), written by three agencies, has highlighted opportunities offered by the Highlands’ “low intensity airspace to facilitate experimental flying” and its planned remote air traffic control (ATC) system.

The claim formed part of a response to the DfT’s Green Paper on its aviation strategy for the next 30 years, submitted by Highlands and Islands Airports, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and regional transport partnership Hitrans.

The north already looks likely to play a high-profile role in space and aviation innovation, with plans to develop a satellite launch site in Sutherland and a project to introduce the world’s first electric-powered passenger flights in the Orkney islands.

Other technologies highlighted by the agencies that could be tested in the region include autonomous aircraft, or drones, sustainable aviation fuels and single engine turbine planes.

Their document points to the potential of test projects for delivering mail and newspapers to the islands and “multiple sea and fresh-water loch environments to facilitate float aircraft experiments.” It also highlights the area’s existing military and civilian expertise.

The authors said: “The region benefits from clusters of high-quality precision engineering and technology expertise around existing activity, including the MoD in Moray, the Dounreay nuclear site in Caithness, and established energy industry services in Shetland and the inner Moray Firth.

“In Moray the aerospace and defence sector is particularly strong. It accounts for 8% of total employment and is growing. There is optimism for the future of this sector, driven by the strategic importance of Moray to the defence of the UK and its allies.

“This is complemented by other new opportunities – including space-related businesses linked to the satellite launch site being developed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise in Sutherland, and sites being explored in Shetland and the Western Isles.” They added: “The Highlands and Islands represents an ideal living laboratory for aviation and aerospace testing.”

The area also has potential to host or participate in national centres of excellence, they said.