Scottish Government need to come clean over delays to broadband programme

Local MP John Lamont has said the Scottish Government needs to ‘come clean’ on their ability to connect every home to superfast broadband by 2021.

R100, or the Reaching 100% programme, is the SNP’s pledge to roll out super-fast broadband to 100% of Scotland’s inhabitants by 2021.

When first announced, the Scottish Government said that contracts for this would be signed in 2018. So confident was the Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing MSP that he said he would resign if all homes were not connected by 2021.

The timetable for signing contracts was quietly delayed to March 2019. This date came and went and in early June, the Minister put in charge of the delayed R100 programme, South of Scotland MSP Paul Wheelhouse announced a further delay and that contracts be awarded “by the end of the year.”

No update has been provided now two months later, which has sparked local MP John Lamont to write to the Minister demanding he provides a new timetable for the completion of the programme.

Latest figures show that nearly one in five homes in the Scottish Borders still do not have access to a decent internet connection.

John Lamont MP said: “There are still far too many homes and businesses in the Scottish Borders struggling with a slow connection. The UK Government has provided the SNP with more funding per head to deliver broadband than anywhere else, yet rural parts of Scotland continue to be left behind.

“In fact this delay to R100 means that £21m which was given to the SNP way back in 2014 and which they are saving for R100, continues to go unspent.

“The Scottish Government has quietly delayed this timetable a number of times now. And there is now no realistic proposition of them meeting their target of 2021.

“At the Border Union Show this year, one of the busiest stands was a local wireless broadband provider. Residents and businesses are clearly sick to the back teeth with a lack of connectivity. The Minister in charge needs to come clean with communities in the Borders about when this will happen so that they can make alternative arrangements if they want.”