Rural Communities in Scotland: Broadband — [Mr George Howarth in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:07 am on 22nd November 2017.

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Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure and Energy) 10:07 am, 22nd November 2017

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. As the phrase goes, there are supposed to be three types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. I think we can add to that the parallel universe of John Lamont. His Tory grievances know no bounds, and we have heard the same things from Government Members. This is the week that he tried to politicise Poppyscotland, so the Tory grievances really do know no bounds.

The hon. Gentleman talked about stripping the Scottish Government of their powers and giving them to local authorities. I hope that he is aware that local authorities have been involved in the roll-out. I know from my time as a councillor that East Ayrshire Council was involved in discussions with Digital Scotland and the Scottish Government and put money in to achieve a target of higher than 95% in my area.

The hon. Gentleman blithely ignores the fact that the UK Government’s target of 95% superfast coverage for the UK was based on a pan-UK approach, which allowed the UK Government to set a target that was skewed towards England, where there is a greater population. Were it not for the Scottish Government’s investment, we would not even be close to the 95% target.

Broadband Delivery UK allocated £100m for broadband in Scotland, but the Scottish Government and other local authorities have had to add £185m—additional funding of 185%—to get to a 95% target for Scotland. To achieve the 95% target in England, additional funding of only 108% was required, which shows the disparity in approaches and the level of commitment to it in Scotland.

Scotland’s landmass is the equivalent of 60% of England’s landmass, so clearly the funding allocation should have been done on that basis alone, which would have meant a much higher funding allocation initially of close to £338 million, instead of the £100 million that was received from the UK Government. With more densely populated areas elsewhere in the UK, commercial roll-out was always going to be more attractive and hit those areas first. Scotland’s challenging geography has resulted in the requirement for 400 kilometres of subsea cables.