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Shared Rural Network

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:27 pm on 28th October 2019.

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Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 4:27 pm, 28th October 2019

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker; I am glad not to be forgotten.

In the words of the author Arthur Herman, “Scotland invented the modern world”, but the reality is that Scotland is now being held back by this Tory Government. The Scottish National party welcomes the Government’s announcement about the shared rural network proposals; if they are delivered with the improvements that the Secretary of State says there will be, they will be improvements for our rural and island communities. But even with that investment, Scotland’s 4G coverage level would still be below the overall UK-wide geographic coverage figure of 95%, leaving further work to be done.

I have to say that I am pleased that the Secretary of State seems to possess a more realistic understanding of what the devolution agreement actually is than her Scottish Tory colleagues. She is aware, it is clear, that telecommunications are a reserved matter. But with Scotland receiving just 3% of UK Government funding for broadband, compared with Northern Ireland’s 91% funding, will she reassure me that the programme will be rolled out and that, when it is, we will get a fairer funding settlement than we have had thus far?

People hearing this announcement today could be forgiven for having a sense of déjà vu. The 2017 Conservative manifesto promised to end rural notspots by 2022—a target that we know will not be met. We are now being told that the target will be 2025. Can the Secretary of State give me a cast-iron guarantee that that target will be met? If not, will it really have the teeth that she is suggesting?