McArthur meets Finance Secretary to raise R100 concerns


Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur has welcomed a commitment from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Connectivity, Kate Forbes to work with local stakeholders on plans to ensure superfast broadband is rolled out to every household in the islands.

Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur has welcomed a commitment from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Connectivity, Kate Forbes to work with local stakeholders on plans to ensure superfast broadband is rolled out to every household in the islands.

At a meeting earlier today (Wednesday), organised by Mr McArthur and involving representatives from Orkney Islands Council, Highland & Islands Enterprise and Scottish Government, Ms Forbes acknowledged the need to take steps to ‘island proof’ the government’s R100 programme.

Cable routes to fifteen island communities in Orkney were announced earlier this year, but details of which households will be connected under the contract signed with BT have still not been published. Even so, it is already clear that many hundreds of households across the islands are not expected to be connected to fibre through the scheme as it stands.

Given the importance of digital connectivity to the future of the islands, Ms Forbes accepted the case for looking at how funding available under the Scottish and UK Government ‘voucher’ schemes could be used more effectively to extend the roll out of fibre.  The Cabinet Secretary offered to reflect further on the proposals put forward and meet again later in the summer.

Following the meeting, Mr McArthur said:

“R100 provides an opportunity, at long last, to put in the digital infrastructure our islands need. It is clear, however, that as things stand hundreds of households and businesses in Orkney will be left without access to a decent broadband service.

“To her credit, the Cabinet Secretary recognised that such an outcome would be unacceptable and more than a wasted opportunity. She also accepted that more effective ways could be found for better using the funds that have been made available by both the Scottish and UK Governments.

“It clearly makes no sense to lay subsea cables to each of the isles and not then connect up every household. By pooling the resources available, however, there is no reason why all the remaining gaps cannot be plugged in ways that are ‘future proofed’.

“These digital connections are crucial to the future sustainability and ambitions of our islands. I look forward to continuing to work with the Cabinet Secretary and her officials, as well as the Council and HIE to ensure that solutions are put in place that meet our specific needs”.


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