SNP Government must take responsibility for R100 delays, says Edward Mountain MSP

Highlands and Islands MSP, Edward Mountain, continues to press the Scottish Government for a clear timetable for the delivery of superfast broadband to the Highlands.

During Virtual Portfolio Questions at the Scottish Parliament, Edward Mountain MSP asked the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands “when physical work will start with the delivery of Lot 1 of the R100 high-speed broadband programme?”

The Minister replied: “The contract award of Lot 1, or the North Lot, of our Reaching 100 per cent programme is on hold pending the outcome of a legal challenge from Gigaclear Ltd. Physical work will start as soon as possible at the conclusion of legal proceedings.”

Edward Mountain then asked: “In the Highlands many are frustrated with the Scottish Government’s failure to deliver on their promise of broadband by 2021. So, Minister, my simple question is, without blaming anyone else, when will you deliver superfast broadband in the Highlands as you promised, is it 2026 or 2027?

The Minister replied: “Mr Mountain’s question is founded on a false premise that the situation has had no progress whatsoever. In terms of Highland Council, for example, which I know is close to Mr Mountain’s heart, we’ve seen progress from January 2014 where we had 20.3% of premises could have superfast access to 80.5% by June of this year.”

He later added: “I want to assure Mr Mountain and anyone he represents in the Highlands and Islands that they will be eligible for voucher funding which will be available for this summer onwards and because of the online checker, we’ll be developing to provide information at a premises level, his constituents should be able to tell whether they are eligible for R100, when R100 will be delivering to their premises and if that is likely to be beyond the end of 2021 they will be able to use the voucher funding to deliver a solution for them.”

Edward Mountain MSP also raised the issue of R100 delays in Tuesday’s Holyrood debate on supporting communities.

During the debate Gail Ross MSP was dismissive of Edward Mountain’s concerns, stating: “I point out that the current R100 programme in the north is affected by an on-going legal case. Mr Mountain, as convener of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, should be aware of that.”

Edward Mountain commented:

“I am fed up with hearing from this SNP Government why everyone else is to blame for not fulfilling their promises. If you make a promise you keep to it, if you can’t you answer for it.

This pandemic has highlighted why better broadband is needed urgently in the Highlands now.

I urge this SNP Government to stop prevaricating and find a constructive way forward.”