by Jamie Stewart

Following of from the 2018 Audit Scotland report, warning that it “will be difficult” to deliver the stated ambition of 100% “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) coverage by 2021, the Scottish Government’s future £600m R100 strategy has come under further pressure from the British Infrastructure Group (BIG).

BIG chaired by the Rt. Hon Grant Shapps MP, brings together cross-party MPs and Peers dedicated to promoting better infrastructure across the United Kingdom.

The group comprised of 57 MPs (only one of which is Scottish) has launched the Broadband 2.0 study to examine the delivery of broadband speeds throughout the UK. The report aims to present the UK Government, industry regulator Ofcom and broadband suppliers with a series of recommendations to improve broadband delivery.

Scotland fairs particularly poorly in the report, with four out of the five worst-performing parliamentary constituencies in the north of the country, beaten only by Carmarthen East & Dinefwr in Wales:

  • Carmarthen East & Dinefwr (Wales)
  • Ross, Skye & Lochaber
  • Na h-Eileanan an Iar
  • Orkney & Shetland
  • Argyll & Bute

In Ross, Lochaber and the Isle of Skye only 65.5 % of connections reach the minimum standard specified by the Universal Service Obligation (USO).

Scottish Countryside Alliance Director Jamie Stewart said: “Recent studies have demonstrated that nearly half of small businesses in rural Scotland suffer from poor broadband connectivity. The success of small and medium sized businesses is key to economic growth, particularly in rural areas, but to flourish in more remote areas requires a good service of reliable digital connectivity. The lack of broadband infrastructure in Scotland remains a serious problem for some with many left with little or no option but to try alternative, privately funded solutions”.

Mobile phone signal coverage also remains a major issue for many businesses. An issue often side-lined in favour of broadband. Mobile operators highlight that good progress is going to be made with the wider rollout of 4G, but many living and working in rural Scotland remain deeply frustrated by Scotland’s current mobile coverage levels.

Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, said the Government's ambition was to make rural Scotland "one of the best-connected places anywhere in Europe". Oh dear Minister, another area where the SNP Government is clearly failing Scotland.

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