The Minister for Energy, Connectivity and Islands has admitted that some premises in the Highlands and North of Scotland will have to wait into 2026 before they receive superfast broadband via the SNP Government’s long-delayed R100 programme.
The SNP promised to deliver R100 to the Highlands by 2021 but they are on course to break that promise, having only just signed the contract to deliver the project in December last year.
Highlands and Islands MSP, Edward Mountain has said Fergus Ewing MSP should now “hang his head in shame” after the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy promised he would resign if R100 was not completed by the end of 2021.
During today’s session of the Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee, Edward Mountain MSP pressed Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, for the completion date for the rollout of superfast broadband across the Highlands and the North of Scotland.
Edward Mountain MSP asked: “Did I get the impression that Lot One of R100 will be complete by 2026, is that what you just said?”
The Minister replied: “That is what we were assuming at the time the contract award was made to BT, as I say BT are trying to accelerate that. It is a safety first approach in terms of the timescales and it would be, as it is with the other contracts, you are dealing with the tail of delivery at that point. The vast majority of the build would be earlier than that, but yes that’s correct Convenor 2026 is what we are starting from.”
Edward Mountain MSP then questioned further: “That will be bitterly disappointing to people in the Highlands who were expecting it in 2021, indeed were promised in 2021 by your predecessor. So could you just confirm to me that 2026 is the date that it will be delivered and that’s the date, if not earlier, that was agreed when you signed the £384 million contract with BT?”
The Minister said: “2026 is the final date, that’s for the programme. In terms of sign-off and completion of build there may be some premises into 2026 based on that assumption, but as I say we are working to try and accelerate that.”
Following the session, Edward Mountain MSP said:
“The truth is slowly emerging that the SNP Government will be unable to rollout broadband to some Highland communities until into 2026, maybe even 2027.
“Fergus Ewing should now hang his head in shame. Back in 2018 he promised to resign if R100 wasn’t delivered by 2021.
“This is a serious failure and the lack of digital infrastructure in the Highlands threatens to slow the region’s recovery from the pandemic.”