Orkney's MSP, Liam McArthur, has today reiterated his concerns that the Scottish Government’s broadband programme risks "falling far short" of the promise to connect 100% of households.
Speaking during General Questions, Mr McArthur acknowledged the work being done to lay subsea cables to many of the smaller isles over the summer. However, current indications suggest that the rollout of fibre on each island will be more limited than expected. Orkney’s MSP used the government's own coverage map for South Ronaldsay to demonstrate the extent to which properties in the isles risk missing out after the cables make landfall.
Mr McArthur sought an urgent meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Kate Forbes, to discuss how this problem might be addressed, coverage extended and local communities more involved in the rollout programme itself. Ms Forbes accepted the need to go further and agreed to meet with Mr McArthur, Orkney Islands Council and Highlands & Islands Enterprise, following on from similar meetings last summer.
Commenting afterwards, Mr McArthur said:
"The Scottish Government made clear a commitment to rural and island communities that 100% superfast broadband coverage would be achieved. While the deadline for this has passed, the fear now is that the R100 programme will fall far short of delivering the universal coverage promised.
"Indeed, the government's own maps reveal the extent to which many if not most households in some islands and communities are set to miss out even after the subsea cables have been laid. Rather than delivering the digital infrastructure desperately needed, this could make worse the existing digital divisions both within and between communities in Orkney.
"I'm pleased the Cabinet Secretary acknowledged these concerns and agreed to meet for further discussions about how to address these shortcomings in the R100 programme. Given the urgency of the situation, I look forward to meeting Ms Forbes and her officials before the summer recess."