Rural Connectivity Commission could be set up

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the launch of the constitutional paper 'Connecting Rural Scotland' in Wick yesterday.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the launch of the constitutional paper 'Connecting Rural Scotland' in Wick yesterday.

A Rural Connectivity Commission will be set up if Scotland becomes independent to consider how to improve issues such as mobile and broadband coverage, postal services and transport links for rural communities.

The commission was announced in a Scottish Government constitutional paper Connecting Rural Scotland, published yesterday. It will be an expert body which will consider how to deliver a better deal for our rural communities and businesses while also ensuring clarity for industry and stability for investors.

The Commission will work within a new Scottish regulatory landscape intended to ensure that Scotland’s vital utilities remain sustainable and that markets operate in the long-term interests of all customers.

The paper, which was published as the Scottish Cabinet visited Wick, also confirmed that on independence, the Government will take steps to ensure that all coastal areas of Scotland receive 100 per cent of the net income from the Crown Estate seabed leasing revenues.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Our rural communities make a very valuable contribution to Scotland’s economy and have huge potential to develop even further.

“Too often people who live outside urban areas poorly served by the market and the UK Government when it comes to services vital in the 21st century.

“With independence, we will have the powers to regulate these crucial services and to remove barriers which are holding back rural areas from achieving their full potential. There are opportunities to change so much for the better and that is why we are proposing setting up a Rural Connectivity Commission and taking forward improvements in five key areas for the benefit of rural Scotland.”

The paper sets out five areas where it states independence would improve rural connectivity.

These are: Improved digital connectivity, including mobile telecoms and broadband; Fairer parcel and delivery charges and ownership of the Royal Mail; Fairer fuel prices and energy bills; Better transport links and Achieving the true potential of rural renewables.