Highlands and Islands need more funding for better broadband

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MORE funding for rural broadband is being called for by Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant.

The Shadow Minister for Finance and Infrastructures bid to Westminster and Holyrood comes on the back of an announcement made yesterday (Tuesday, August 16) that Scotland is set to receive £68.8m from the rural broadband monies made available by the UK government.

Mrs Grant said: “While I welcome any funding coming on stream for rural broadband, the Westminster Government has not allocated all of the £530m set aside for supporting broadband. “The new coalition government advised last year that £830m would be allocated for broadband. £530m of this is on the table now, but I am advised that there is the potential to draw down an additional £300m from broadband provision beyond 2015 should it be necessary.

“This is absolutely necessary and I am calling on the government at Westminster to fulfil their promise and release all of the £830m they promised last year.”

The Labour politician said that she was pleased to hear news today (Wednesday, August 17) that the Scottish government will play its part through direct investment of Holyrood funding; adding that Scottish Labour has been pressing for years for investment in rural broadband provision.

“I will be contacting the Cabinet Secretary to see when, and how much, investment will be made,” she said.

Mrs Grant continued: “The £10m previously allocated for the superfast broadband pilot to be conducted in the Highlands and Islands will come out of the £68m announced yesterday. Welcome as this is, much much more is needed.

“Highlands and Islands Enterprise who are running the pilot estimate that the potential cost to roll out superfast broadband across the Highlands and Islands could be as much as £300m.

“Given these figures, it is clear that the government both at Westminster and at Holyrood need to invest much more than is presently available and I will continue to press both governments to do so.”