Donald Cameron, Scottish Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, has issued a warning that the R100 broadband project to deliver superfast broadband across Scotland is running behind schedule.
He has expressed his fear that this failure will be particularly damaging to businesses in the Highlands and Islands which are dependent on broadband to conduct their operations and which, because of their location, are distant from customers and suppliers.
Donald’s warning came after First Minster Nicola Sturgeon was unable to confirm that her government would deliver on its pledge by the end of the current Parliament in 2021. Her comments were made at a committee meeting of the Scottish Parliament held yesterday (Wednesday 8th May).
During that meeting, it was revealed that the procurement process designed to identify a contractor was already months behind schedule and that until that process was complete the First Minister could not confirm the details of the actual roll-out. The procurement process should have been concluded in February 2019.
Donald Cameron said: “People across the Highlands and Islands who have been waiting for this roll-out will be deeply dismayed by Nicola Sturgeon’s inability to provide a direct answer.
“Access to decent broadband is absolutely fundamental to anyone running a business and the Scottish Government’s failure to handle the project properly and to deliver on its pledge is putting investment and prosperity at risk.
“It is particularly disappointing given that the Government was warned about this as long ago as September last year by Audit Scotland. There just seems to be no urgency in the way the Scottish Government have responded.
“Business owners continually tell me that they need the Government to be on their side and understand the challenges facing them. At the same time, one way that island and remote communities are seeking to address the challenges of depopulation is by attracting entrepreneurs to set up their businesses here and take advantage of the quality of life which we offer.
“But we cannot do that if the government continually fails us on providing vital infrastructure whether it is ferries, decent roads, or broadband.”