Funding for broadband in the Highlands and Islands

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has expressed further disappointment over broadband funding.

The MSP has received a response from Westminster relating to her call for them to release the full £830m promised for broadband.

Mrs Grant said: “The government at Westminster promised last year that £830m would be allocated for supporting broadband. An element of this was allocated earlier this month, with £68m being awarded to Scotland.

“ Government intervention is crucial to ensure that rural communities, where it is not viable for commercial companies to invest in broadband infrastructure, are not left behind. These communities have arguably most to gain from broadband connection.”

She added: “While Scotland’s allocation of £68m is welcome, it is not nearly enough to bring superfast broadband to the outlying areas of the Highlands and Islands region, far less all the other parts of Scotland where it is not commercially viable. I asked the Westminster Government earlier this month to fulfil its promise and release the full £830m now. I am disappointed to be informed that £300m of the promised £830m will not be allocated before 2015.”

Mrs Grant continued: “This is immensely disappointing but what is even more disappointing is the fact that the letter suggests that the Scottish Government is not engaging properly with BDUK (the Westminster department tasked with rolling out broadband).

“This compounds the fears BT expressed that island communities could lose out unless the Scottish Government steps in and addresses this problem. This Scottish Government needs to step up to the plate – it needs to engage, fund and give broadband the priority it requires and I will be calling on them, yet again, to do so.”