Northern Isles MSPs Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur have urged the Scottish Government to clarify comments made by Rural Economy and Connectivity Secretary, Fergus Ewing, which suggest that rural and island communities are likely to be the last to benefit from superfast broadband.
In a letter to Tavish Scott, Mr Ewing wrote that “any approach which sought a superfast solution for the most remote premises in the first instance would be unlikely to maximise market interest and might therefore actually deliver a sub-optimal outcome for the communities in question.”
Commenting, Tavish Scott MSP said:
“When MSPs debated broadband coverage in rural communities back in February, the Deputy First Minister said he wanted every citizen in Scotland to be “well connected to the modern world”. Now it seems the Scottish Government are content to push some communities to the back of the queue.
“The Scottish Government should be prioritising places like Orkney and Shetland which currently put up with some of the lowest connection speeds in Scotland. What does a sub-optimal outcome look like? For many people any and every improvement in coverage would be welcomed.”
Liam McArthur MSP added:
“At the moment people in Orkney and Shetland pay the same price for internet connection as those in the central belt but often receive a fraction of the service. Many indeed still receive no service at all.
“The Scottish Government has to understand that faster and more reliable broadband is increasingly a necessity for those living, working and studying in the Northern Isles. In many respects, this is where the need is greatest. Ministers cannot simply leave those in rural and island areas at the back of the queue and must now prioritise investment in those areas where coverage remains poorest.”