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.


Add Your Comment
  • Matthew Simpson

    • August 16th, 2016 12:45

    When and where is this Digital Forum on Saturday?

  • Martin Tregonning

    • August 17th, 2016 16:53

    The revised proposals issued by HMRC will exempt most Shetland businesses from having to file quarterly returns – which can only be a good thing for those running businesses.

    Sole Traders, Partnerships and Small Companies (those with turnover of less that £6.5 mil, assets of less than £3.26 mil, and fewer than 50 employees) are exempt the quarterly reporting.

    However, they will still need to file their annual corporation tax on-line and with so many other government requirements ( e.g. PAYE and VAT) having to be completed on-line, good broadband is still going to be needed by every rural business.

  • John Tulloch

    • August 18th, 2016 9:59

    “Unlikely to maximise market interest” – isn’t that the kind of excuse the SNP would castigate the Tories for?

    In the 10th year of SNP government, Mr Ewing is content to preside over the continuing, inexorable decline of remote communities.

  • Michael Garriock

    • August 18th, 2016 18:15

    “Any approach which sought a superfast solution for the most remote premises in the first instance would be unlikely to maximise market interest.”

    Roughly translated in to ‘you and I speak’: No company is going to touch an upgrade to a top notch service for the most remote users with a freshly disinfected 40ft barge pole, as there’s no money in it. We’re not about to bank roll them to do it, so those customers will just have to wait until suppliers decide to upgrade cherry picked slightly more profitable relatively nearby areas, and hope they tag on the remoter customers too while they’re at it.

    While the Scottish Government may well want every person in Scotland to be ‘well connected to the modern world’, its perfectly clear that once again they’re not willing to foot the bill to make it happen, and seem to expect private commercial enterprise to willingly jump in and fulfill their wish list. Thats never worked out for them in the past, and it never will.


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