Superfast Broadband

– in the Scottish Parliament on 1st June 2022.

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Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

3. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the roll-out of superfast broadband. (S6O-01160)

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

With regard to the roll-out of superfast broadband, Alexander Stewart will be aware of our commitment to reach 100 per cent of properties. The latest Ofcom figures show that more than 2.6 million homes and businesses across Scotland can access superfast broadband speeds of 30 megabits per second and above. It is worth reminding members, including Alexander Stewart, that the matter of telecommunications is entirely reserved to Westminster.

Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

With the R100—reaching 100 per cent—roll-out being delayed from 2021 to 2027, the Scottish Government has a long way to go to convince communities. The voucher scheme for R100 has also been disappointing in the extreme, with only 497 households in my region having applied from the more than 41,000 that are eligible. How can the Scottish Government address connectivity problems when it is clearly failing communities the length and breadth of the country?

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

I think that communities are convinced that if they were to wait for the United Kingdom Government to reach them, they would be waiting for an awfully long time. As of 30 April 2022, more than 9,600 connections had been delivered through the R100 contracts and vouchers, the majority of which are full fibre, with a further 9,500 connections in build. I wait to see what the UK Government will do with regard to connecting those households.

Photo of Siobhian Brown Siobhian Brown Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government has made substantial progress in improving digital connectivity in Scotland, despite the fact that telecommunications is a matter that is wholly reserved to Westminster—

Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Conservative

No, it is not—the delivery is not.

Photo of Siobhian Brown Siobhian Brown Scottish National Party

Can the cabinet secretary provide any further information about steps that the Scottish Government is taking to encourage the roll-out of 5G in Scotland?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Before the cabinet secretary answers, I encourage Tory members to listen to the question and the answers without making interventions from a sedentary position.

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

Thank you, Presiding Officer.

I remind members that broadband and telecoms are 100 per cent reserved.

In Scotland, the 5G roll-out is commercially led, but we have taken a series of actions that are designed to try to create the conditions in which mobile network operators can roll out 5G infrastructure much more easily. That includes changes to planning legislation and our innovative infralink project to help with site rental guidance. In addition, we have acted on input from a wide range of stakeholders, including the mobile telephone industry and other partners in the public sector, to try to progress that as quickly as possible.

Lastly—and most important—is the £28.75 million Scottish 4G infill programme, which tries to ensure that there are future-proof masts in areas that would not otherwise have masts built through commercial build. Again, all that funding comes from our own budget, because we are not willing to wait for the UK Government to fund it.