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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:20 am on 22nd November 2017.

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Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray 10:20 am, 22nd November 2017

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. I congratulate my hon. Friend John Lamont on securing this important debate on broadband roll-out in Scotland. As the debate title mentions Scotland, I am sure all right hon. and hon. Members will join me in congratulating Forres in my constituency, which has been named as having the most beautiful high street in Scotland just this week.

Broadband connections are a hugely important issue to me as a constituency MP. It is the issue I have the most correspondence on, whether that is by letter, email or visits to my constituency surgeries. The mainstay of many rural communities, such as the one I represent, is our small businesses. They are often single-person operations, and they provide the glue that keeps rural communities such as those in Moray sustainable. That sustainability is being undermined by the lack of adequate broadband, without which it is simply not possible to trade in this day and age. It is not just small businesses; a significant and successful asset management company operates in my constituency. It has customers scattered across the globe and offices based in London, the United States and Asia. It is a home-grown company and proud of it, but the continued lack of adequate broadband is understandably causing it anxiety. The financial services industry in the UK is not just restricted to London and Edinburgh. It generates employment and revenue across the country, and our broadband coverage should reflect that.

The complaints come from all parts of Moray, with notable notspots including communities such as Rafford and Glenlivet and coastal communities such as Spey Bay. People watching in those communities will be puzzled by the SNP’s objections that local authorities should have more control over the roll-out of broadband in their areas. I was confused to see the glee—I wrote that word down—of SNP Members when my hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk said that the Scottish Government should be stripped of these powers. It is almost as though they do not believe in true devolution from this Parliament to the Scottish Parliament and onwards. [Interruption.] Excuse me: I tell SNP Members that devolution does not stop in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is as far away from Moray as London often seems to be. We want more powers going down to our local authorities, rather than being held by a centralised SNP Government.