Examination of Witness

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:47 am on 21st June 2022.

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Mairi Spowage:

Yes, if and when digital connectivity is of sufficient quality it will present a lot of opportunities for the rural economy. We still hear in parts of Scotland that it is a barrier to remote working. It would be hugely transformative for lots of areas, particularly of rural Scotland, but I am sure that lots of other rural parts of the UK would say the same. It would be transformative in terms of the connectivity of people working from home, perhaps for businesses in population centres but also for businesses that are operating in these areas, to have a more reliable connection. It could be extremely transformative to those areas.

We have heard from some of our work with businesses that to a certain extent it can also work the other way. Businesses based in remote and rural Scotland are employing people in the big population centres, but sometimes having to pay them more money because they are more likely to command higher wages in those areas, particularly in this very tight labour market that we have at the moment.

Improvements in digital connectivity present huge opportunities for rural Scotland. As much as there is quite a lot of focus on transport connectivity through the levelling-up funds, investment UK-wide—particularly in rural areas—in digital connectivity is one of the areas where we could get the biggest bang for our buck in transforming the economy and reducing regional inequality, particularly when we look at the population outlook if current trends continue in rural areas.