A £2 million investment in faster public sector connectivity in Aberdeen will leave people in Shetland “puzzled” by the emerging digital divide, says isles MSP Tavish Scott.
The fund is to increase broadband speeds at key public buildings including schools, health and community centres.
It will connect 57 public buildings to broadband with speeds of up to a gigabit (1,000 mbps), paving the way for greater public and private sector investment in the future. Many school and public buildings in Shetland are left languishing, with sometimes snail-paced internet connections, despite a Scottish government pledge to install superfast broadband across the country by 2021.
Connectivity secretary Fergus Ewing hailed the Aberdeen announcement on Tuesday saying: “By providing fast and reliable broadband, capable of gigabit speeds, we are transforming Aberdeen into one of the UK’s best connected cities, unlocking greater commercial investment in the future.”
While that may be good news for the Granite City, Shetland MSP was not impressed with the news. He said: “Shetland has many areas with no broadband coverage or very slow speeds. Yet here the government are once again putting money into one of Scotland’s cities where the market provides superfast broadband.
“Many people will be puzzled that this is a priority for public money rather than areas where the service does not exist.”
Many people will be puzzled that this is a priority for public money rather than areas where the service does not exist. TAVISH SCOTT
Meanwhile, Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael raised broadband issues in the House of Commons demanding that Westminster spending on the infrastructure, promised in last week’s budget, needed to go to the areas of greatest need.
At Treasury Question Time Mr. Carmichael said: “When will local authorities be told the basis on which they will be invited to apply for the new money that has been earmarked by the government and can the minister reassure me that when that money is distributed, it will be done on the basis of the need in the area, not just the population numbers?”
Afterwards, he said Northern Isles communities that had previously been left behind should be at the front of the queue for investment.
“Orkney and Shetland have the poorest levels of broadband infrastructure of any local authority areas in the UK, and if the government is preparing investment in a new generation of broadband, it must come to our communities first, in order to narrow the digital divide.”