Scottish government criticised over broadband statement
The Scottish government has been urged not to allow Orkney and Shetland to be at the “back of the queue” for superfast broadband.
Concerns have been raised after rural affairs minister Fergus Ewing suggested that rural and island communities would likely be the last to benefit from the roll-out.
In a letter to isles MSP Tavish Scott, Mr Ewing said: “Any approach which sought a superfast solution for the most remote premises in the first instance would be unlikely to maximise market interest.”
That was “not good enough”, Mr Scott insisted this week.
He said: “When MSPs debated broadband coverage in rural communities back in February, the Deputy First Minister said he wanted every citizen in Scotland to be ‘well connected to the modern world’.
“Now it seems the Scottish government are content to push some communities to the back of the queue.
“The Scottish government should be prioritising places like Orkney and Shetland which currently put up with some of the lowest connection speeds in Scotland.”
Mr Ewing had also commented that the lack of market interest “might therefore actually deliver a sub-optimal outcome” for the communities in question.
Mr Scott demanded: “What does a sub-optimal outcome look like? For many people any and every improvement in coverage would be welcomed.”
Mr Scott’s comments came ahead of a digital forum due to be held in the isles on Saturday, where representatives from 02, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and BT will provide updates on their work to improve coverage and answer questions from the public.
Meanwhile, isles MP Alistair Carmichael has said the Westminster government needs to further consider the effect that introducing digital tax returns will have on businesses with poor broadband connectivity.
The MP has previously questioned the government on the need to introduce quarterly tax returns and move all administration online.
The Treasury has announced six public consultations for its “Making Tax Digital” programme, including moves to exempt small firms with modest turnovers from the proposals.
But Mr Carmichael wants more clarity on plans to provide financial assistance to small firms who will need to pay their tax online. He also wants measures to support those with unreliable internet connections.