Northern Isles MSPs, Liam McArthur and Beatrice Wishart, have today (Thursday) criticised the government’s failure to meet their commitment to delivering superfast broadband to all premises in Orkney and Shetland by 2021.
Mr McArthur and Ms Wishart were responding to a statement in parliament by the Islands Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, on the roll out of the government’s R100 programme.
During the statement, Mr Wheelhouse announced that the majority of the R100 programme would be delivered in the South and Central Lots by 2023 but failed to provide any timescale for the North Lot.
Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said:
“It has been clear for some time that the Scottish Government was going to fail to meet its promise to deliver high speed broadband to 100% of households and businesses by 2021. While the Minister has now admitted the 2021 deadline has been dumped, he can offer no assurances that premises in the Northern Isles will even see delivery by 2023.
“We know that Orkney has the lowest level of broadband coverage in the country. Islanders and local businesses are crying out for good quality, affordable broadband but are now being told that they are well and truly at the back of the queue.
“Rural and island communities deserve better. If there are to be further delays in delivering this programme, Ministers must ensure that those areas with the poorest coverage are prioritised”.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart added:
“Today the SNP Government confirmed that homes and businesses in Shetland and Orkney are being left behind once more. The R100 programme has been pushed back yet again and meantime the lack of a proper broadband connection will continue to hinder our communities to access the services that rely on good connectivity – banking services, education and online learning, TV programming to name but a few.
“The Government must give a clear and realistic answer for when it expects every household and business in Shetland to be connected to superfast broadband. Saying that there is now “a strong foundation upon which to “reach 100%” ” is cold comfort when you can’t get past dial-up. If the majority of properties in Central and Southern Scotland are only due to be connected by 2023, it raises serious questions about when more challenging properties in Shetland can expect the same service.”