Superfast Broadband

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 5 September 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

3. To ask the Scottish Government how much financial support the UK Government is providing for Scotland’s reaching 100 per cent superfast broadband programme. (S5O-03483)

Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

All regulatory and legislative powers on telecommunications, including for broadband services, are scheduled as being wholly reserved to the United Kingdom Parliament under the provisions of the Scotland Act 1998.

Despite its reserved responsibilities, the UK Government has chosen to commit only £21 million, or just 3.5 per cent of the total investment of £600 million that is required for the reaching 100 per cent programme. with the Scottish Government committing from our devolved resources the remaining £579 million, or 96.5 per cent of the total funding that is required for the programme.

Photo of James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

I thank the minister for that disappointing response. It is a strange way to treat one of the so-called family of nations that we were told we are some time ago.

How does that level of funding compare with investment by the Westminster Government in broadband and fibre in other parts of the UK?

Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

I share James Dornan’s disappointment with the response. We are both disappointed because, while the UK Government has made the rather substantial sum of £150 million available to help to deliver Northern Ireland’s superfast broadband programme—almost 91 per cent of the programme’s total cost—Scotland and Wales have largely been left out of the picture, with the R100 programme receiving just 3.5 per cent of its total cost, as I said in my original answer. Wales’s superfast broadband aspirations have been funded entirely by the Welsh Government and European Union funding.

I hope that we can have a positive relationship with the new Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport ministerial team, and I hope that its members reflect on the actions of their predecessors and look to increase support to Scotland and Wales to deliver our broadband aspirations.

Photo of Jamie Greene Jamie Greene Conservative

Mr Dornan might be pleased to learn that the UK Government contributed £120 million to the digital Scottish superfast broadband programme, which delivered broadband to 95 per cent of households, versus just £60 million from his own Government.

The reality is that the Scottish Government made the commitment to the R100 programme although it did not have to. It promised £600 million but not a penny of it has been spent yet. It said that R100 will be delivered by 2021, but it will now be the end of 2021. When will R100 be delivered? When will contracts be signed? That is what people really want to know.

Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

I have already made it clear to all members that we have outlined a timetable for reaching a decision on awarding the contracts for R100. That is due to happen by the end of this calendar year. In the near future, we will be able to select preferred bidders.

I have explained to numerous colleagues of Jamie Greene that we are in the middle of a procurement exercise and cannot break embargo on a commercial contract negotiation during a procurement process. I hope that Jamie Greene understands that. We have committed to give out the information as soon as we are able to do so, and I repeat that commitment today.

Jamie Greene also referred to the amount of funding that came from the Scottish Government to DSSB. If he goes back and looks at the numbers and adds up Highlands and Islands Enterprise support, Scottish Government support, and support from local authorities funded by the Scottish Government, he will see that the Scottish Government has put in more resources than the UK Government has.

It is also interesting to hear a member of the Conservatives seeming to take credit for DSSB when we have been criticised for the past three years for a so-called failure to deliver. Perhaps Mr Greene will now acknowledge that DSSB has been a great success. In Inverclyde, which is an area close to his heart, 97.4 per cent of premises have access to superfast broadband speeds.