Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has sought reassurances from the Islands Minister, Paul Wheelhouse that local contractors will be used as far as possible to deliver the Scottish Government’s R100 broadband programme roll-out.
During Portfolio Questions in the Scottish Parliament, Mr McArthur highlighted that the project could provide a significant workstream for island businesses and urged Mr Wheelhouse to ensure that BT, who have the North Lot contract, are encouraged to engage with local contractors on the programme roll-out. As well as the economic impact, Mr McArthur highlighted the benefits of minimising unnecessary travel for essential workers into and out of the islands.
In response, Mr Wheelhouse agreed that it was in the Scottish Government’s interest to make this happen and, while it is a commercial decision for BT and Openreach to make, he asked if Mr McArthur could provide details of businesses in Orkney who are looking to participate in the programme so that their interest could be registered with BT and Openreach.
Commenting afterwards, Mr McArthur said:
“People and businesses in Orkney have been waiting patiently for the government to deliver on its promise of superfast broadband. As we seek to rebuild after the pandemic, this digital connectively is more important than ever.
“Such substantial public investment, however, also offers opportunities for local businesses to benefit. This will only happen if the Scottish Government and BT take steps to include them in the roll-out of the R100 programme.
“We know from past experience that there are plenty of suitably trained contractors with the necessary skills and expertise to complete large elements of this work in Orkney. Making use of these local contractors not only benefits the local economy, but reduces any risk associated with people moving into and out of the islands unnecessarily.
“I welcome Mr Wheelhouse’s acknowledgement of these benefits and his agreement to take up the matter with BT. I will now take up the Minister’s invitation to write to him with more detail and would encourage any local businesses who are interested to contact me.”