The Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands today confirmed that the Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme could cost over £50.7 million.
The Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme was announced yesterday for businesses and households that will be unable to connect to superfast broadband via the R100 programme.
Edward Mountain MSP has called the potential bill, which could be in excess of £50.7m, “an expensive mistake for failing to deliver R100 on time and as promised.”
The procurement process for the programme R100 was beset with delays and was then followed by an ongoing legal battle which has halted progress on delivering superfast broadband to rural communities in the North.
The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee today took evidence from the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands regarding the delivery of the R100 superfast broadband programme and the Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme.
During the evidence session Edward Mountain MSP asked “if everyone applies for a voucher how much is it going to cost the Scottish Government?”
The Minister confirmed: “We believe the overall cost estimate for the Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme as a whole is between £26.4m and £50.7m over a five year period… that’s based on between 20 and 40 per cent take up, that’s why there is a range of between £26.4m and £50.7m.”
The Minister added: “We’ve obviously had to make some estimates based on modelling to understand the kind of demand we might face so it is something we will keep under review and stress monitor on a regular basis, so if it looks like it is getting out of hand, we’ll be coming back to the Committee probably to inform you of that and keep you posted.”
Edward Mountain MSP asked a further question: “just to clarify, Minister, it could be more than that £50.7m and you are nervous about that, because you said you could be coming back to the Committee?”
The Minister said: “I just want to be open and honest with the Committee that this is our best stab at it. It could go above that but we are very tightly monitoring the rollout of the voucher scheme.”
At the close of the session, Edward Mountain MSP asked when the Scottish Government should have issued the contract if the delivery of R100 was to be delivered, as promised, by the end of 2021.
The Minister struggled to find an answer and stated: “That’s a tough tough question that, because there’s obviously a lot that has happened that we know of now like the pandemic.” He added finally: “I would hesitate to guess.”
Following the conclusion of the Committee session, Edward Mountain MSP said:
“It is clear that Scottish Ministers were clueless as to when contracts would need to be issued to deliver R100 by the end of 2021.
The incompetency of the SNP Government means Highlanders have been left without superfast broadband and some rural communities will now get a voucher instead of a fibre broadband connection.
The voucher scheme could cost over £50m – that is an expensive mistake for failing to deliver R100 on time and as promised.”