SNP MP for Gordon, Richard Thomson, has slammed the UK Conservative Government for its failure to pull its weight in the delivery of superfast fibre-optic broadband across Scotland.
His comments follow an exchange in the House of Commons earlier today, where in response to Jamie Stone MP, the UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, OIiver Dowden, made an attempt to criticise the Scottish Government for its record on delivering broadband projects – despite the fact that powers over telecommunications and broadband regulation remain reserved entirely to the UK Government.
Despite telecommunications being ‘reserved’ to Westminster, the bulk of the work to connect people in the most rural parts in Scotland to high-speed broadband over and above what commercial operators will provide by themselves has to date been supported by direct investment from the SNP Scottish Government.
At the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity committee this week, Minister Paul Wheelhouse confirmed that the Scottish Government has invested £579 million of the £600m R100 project – of which £384 million has been earmarked for investment in the North. In contrast, the UK government has invested just 3.5% in this project.
Commenting, Mr Thomson said: “The pandemic has highlighted the importance of reliable digital infrastructure. It is vital everyone can access fast, reliable broadband and it is frankly shameful that the UK Government would rather spend time attacking the Scottish Government over broadband than spend money to properly fulfil its own carefully guarded responsibilities.
“Even the UK Government’s most basic ‘universal service obligation’ of 10Mbps for broadband speeds is in many cases reliant on being able to get a reliable 4G mobile signal – something else regulated by the UK Government that in too many parts of rural Scotland simply doesn’t as yet exist.
“In stark contrast, the Scottish Government has stepped up with hundreds of millions of pounds of investment from its own resources to ensure that much more of Scotland can now enjoy superfast Broadband than would be the case had it been left to the market and the UK Government to deliver by themselves.
“It’s great that central Scotland is to benefit from UK Government investment in Gigafast broadband. However, that should not be at the expense of the rest of Scotland and the rural communities that need further support to reach the broadband speeds currently taken for granted elsewhere.
“I urge the UK Government to look beyond its power-grabbing instincts and to instead transfer powers over and resources for broadband to the Scottish Government, so it can get on with the job of connecting rural Scotland.”