You’re offline! SNP forced to hand over broadband roll-out
THE UK Government has delivered a rebuke to Scottish ministers for failing to introduce superfast broadband across the country.
Now, amid a cross-Border row, the Scottish Government is to be stripped of responsibility for rolling out high-speed broadband.
Millions of pounds will instead be handed to Scottish councils to carry out the work.
Matt Hancock, UK Minister for digital, yesterday blamed the SNP’s obsession with independence for distracting it from delivering better connections in rural areas.
A pilot scheme will now be launched with Aberdeenshire Council given responsibility to deliver improved broadband.
Mr Hancock said: ‘It’s a classic example of them concentrating so much on constitutional issues that they don’t concentrate on improving the lives of the people of Scotland.
‘It’s deeply frustrating that the roll-out in Scotland has been slower than everywhere else. People running businesses or trying to live in the modern world have found their lives more difficult as a result.’
The Scottish Government had promised superfast broadband by 2020, but then put this back to 2021.
Audit Scotland warned there was still a ‘lot of work to be done’ when it reported on the target last year, and a Holyrood committee is investigating whether the government has invested enough money in the roll-out.
Mr Hancock said the Scottish Government had yet to use £21 million provided to fund the roll-out in hard to reach areas. He said: ‘The Scottish Government has failed. It’s got £21 million of UK taxpayers’ money sitting on its books since at least 2014, and has been dragging its feet.’
He added: ‘So, with the next generation of roll-out, we have decided to go through Scottish councils instead, because we are so fed up with the performance of the Scottish Government. This is not political. It is just about the competence of the Scottish Government.’
A spokeswoman for Fergus Ewing, Rural Economy and Connectivity Secretary, said: ‘These claims are inaccurate and entirely without any basis in fact. It appears Mr Hancock either doesn’t know what’s happening in Scotland or doesn’t care.
‘If the UK Government had been left in charge Scotland’s digital broadband rates would still be only 66 per cent and there would be no digital superfast broadband on our islands or vast parts of the Highlands at all.
‘Scotland is the only part of the UK with a clear commitment to deliver 100 per cent superfast broadband by the end of 2021 and it is only because of Scottish Government work on the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme that 95 per cent of properties will have access to fibre broadband by the end of 2017, a position and a timetable agreed by Mr Hancock’s own department.’
The UK Government has now set aside £1.1 billion – which will focus on getting fibres direct to premises.
It is Scotland’s share of this money which now looks set to go direct to councils rather than the government.
Audit Scotland is planning a follow-up inspection of the Scottish Government’s progress in rolling out superfast.
‘Scottish government has been dragging its feet ’
SLOW SERVICE: Scotland is missing out on superfast internet