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I will not take up too much of the House’s time—I have no intention of grandstanding on this issue—but it is always a pleasure to speak on behalf of the Scottish National party and to ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard in this debate about a key part of the UK’s infrastructure. It goes without saying that digital connectivity is absolutely vital as we seek to grow and evolve our economy. Indeed, full fibre roll-out and the 5G network underpin our progress towards the fourth industrial revolution.
The UK Government, who have responsibility for telecommunications, have a responsibility to ensure that this key driver of our future economic prosperity is appropriately protected and managed. I am pleased that, at a devolved level, the Scottish Government have taken strong action to support digital connectivity. Last month, the Scottish Finance Secretary announced that spending on digital connectivity projects is to double—up to £63.4 million in 2020-21. I want this investment to succeed in providing Scotland with world-class digital infrastructure.
With that in mind, the SNP welcomes the Bill before us today. The SNP acknowledges that the proposals will unlock opportunities for telecoms operators in Scotland that are being prevented from fulfilling consumer demands due to access issues.
The SNP also supports the introduction of laws that would benefit contractors by reducing the costs associated with the delivery of digital infrastructure to multi-dwelling units. The UK Government are entirely right to address any barriers to commercial deployment, and this will complement the Scottish Government’s ambitious plans for digital roll-out, particularly through the R100 programme.
I caveat my support by adding that the SNP will continue to monitor developments relating to this Bill. However, I am aware that Scottish Ministers stand ready to engage with their UK counterparts and I believe it would prove beneficial in making this legislation a success in Scotland.
On the amendments, I want to draw particular attention to those addressing high-risk vendors. We cannot ignore the National Cyber Security Centre’s determinations on Huawei, which it considers to be a high-risk vendor. We cannot ignore the fact that as a Chinese company Huawei could be ordered to harm UK interests under China’s national intelligence law of 2017. Once a virus is placed into our digital system, it cannot be contained by the Government washing their hands of the problem while singing “God save the Queen.”
We now find ourselves in the strange and contradictory position of admitting that Huawei is a potential threat to our national security yet granting it an important role in the development of our digital infrastructure. The UK Government can play around with the semantics of the situation by saying that Huawei will be limited to the periphery or to being a minority presence, but it is deeply irresponsible to dismiss the expert advice.
“we must conclude the engagement of Huawei presents a potential security risk to the UK.”