The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity has admitted that a timescale for the delivery of superfast broadband to the Highlands remains unavailable, despite the SNP Government having a signed a £384 million contract last year to deliver the project.
Highlands and Islands MSP, Edward Mountain has called out the SNP Government for being evasive on the issue completion dates and said “I cannot believe a contract of that size wasn’t signed without timescales within it.”
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.
Edward Mountain MSP has said the SNP Government’s dithering on the procurement process means that the Highlands is unlikely to receive superfast until at least 2027.
During a session of the Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee, Edward Mountain MSP pressed the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity for the completion date for the rollout of superfast broadband across the Highlands and the North of Scotland.
Edward Mountain MSP asked: “Cabinet Secretary, the contract for the Lot One was £384 million, so we are told. You must have agreed a timescale when you signed up to that sort of expenditure on when it would be delivered. Could you tell me when it will be delivered so we can see when that £384 million will be expended out of the budget?
The Cabinet Secretary replied: “There are some elements around the timescale which we can’t set out exactly at the present moment for the reasons of the planning work that’s being taken forward by Openreach.
He added: “What I would be more than happy to do is to come back to the Committee with further details on that once we have been able to get greater clarity from the contractors over the course of the next couple of months.”
Edward Mountain MSP then said: “Okay Cabinet Secretary, it would be helpful if you could write to the Committee with the timescales because I cannot believe a contract of that size wasn’t signed without timescales within it.”
Following the session, Edward Mountain MSP said:
“This £384 million contract was signed just before Christmas but the Cabinet Secretary was incapable of remembering the delivery date. It is clear this information won’t be released until after the election. Typical of this SNP Government to put politics first.
This all but confirms that the rollout of superfast broadband to Highland communities won’t be delivered until 2027.”