A group of Liberal Democrat Highlands and Islands MPs and MSPs have written a joint letter to express their “increasing concern” at the reported threat to the R100 programme for superfast broadband in the Highlands and Islands.
This follows reports that the ongoing legal action taken against the Scottish Government’s handling of procurement for the ‘Northern Lot’, may mean that its European state aid protection could expire before the contract is actually awarded.
In a letter to the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse, the Liberal Democrat representatives have asked for:
“reassurance that the Scottish Government is giving thought now to what happens in the event of the legal challenge being successful, or getting to the year end and state aid clearance cover being lost.”
The rollout is already two years behind schedule, and the Scottish Government will not meet its promise from the last Holyrood election of superfast broadband for everyone by 2021.
Commenting, the group of Liberal Democrat MPs and MSPs said:
“Failure to deliver the R100 programme could have implications for the viability of living and working in the Highlands and Islands. As the current pandemic has graphically illustrated, access to high quality, affordable broadband is an absolute necessity for businesses and households alike.
“Communities across the Highlands & Islands already have the lowest level of broadband and mobile coverage in the country. Further delays and the threat of cancellation of the Scottish Government’s planned broadband roll out programme is therefore the last thing our constituents and communities need.
“With the government’s scheme bogged down in the courts, and state aid clearance due to run out at the end of the year, Ministers need to spell out what their contingency arrangements are. Our constituents need to know that Ministers have a Plan B, and that this won’t simply become another lost promise.”