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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:14 am on 22nd November 2017.

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Photo of Luke Graham Luke Graham Conservative, Ochil and South Perthshire 10:14 am, 22nd November 2017

I will make some more progress and then the hon. Member can come in.

It is true that superfast broadband availability in Scotland has improved from 73% to 83% since 2015, but it still lags behind the rest of the UK. Also, that improvement has largely been achieved by focusing on urban areas around the central belt of Scotland. The slow roll-out of broadband in rural Scotland reflects a Scottish Government who are intent on centralising power and leaving behind areas outside the central belt.

That is particularly true of my constituency of Ochil and South Perthshire. Ochil and South Perthshire enjoys only 69.1% of superfast broadband availability, compared with 83% in Scotland and 89% across the UK. Scotland also has lower than average download speeds than the rest of the United Kingdom.

The UK Government define superfast broadband as 24 megabits per second, yet the average download speed in my constituency is only 19 Mbps. That puts Ochil and South Perthshire in the worst 4% of broadband coverage in the whole of the UK. In 2017, that is unacceptable.

I accept that measures have been taken by both by the UK Government and by Holyrood to step up progress. In Scotland, the roll-out is part of the Digital Scotland programme, which includes the “Reaching 100” scheme to try to deliver superfast broadband to 100% of the premises in Scotland by 2021. The UK Government have named a number of pilot areas for ultrafast broadband, including Aberdeenshire.

I also welcome some of the draft proposals put forward by the Minister in the UK Government to ensure that some of the future rounds of broadband funding are given directly to local authorities and communities. That is not stripping Scotland of powers but empowering local communities and local councils, which is what devolution was intended to do.