Delay to Highlands' superfast broadband 'not acceptable', says MP Jamie Stone
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Far north MP Jamie Stone has hit out at the Scottish Government over its “failed delivery” of a superfast broadband system for parts of the Highlands.
The Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross said: “It is a fundamental injustice that people and businesses in some parts of the UK should be disadvantaged compared to other parts.”
Mr Stone is also unhappy the government has not identified a timescale for the R100 (Reaching 100 per cent) broadband programme in the north of Scotland.
The Scottish Government has awarded two of its three contracts for the £600 million project but said an unspecified legal challenge delayed the work in the north of Scotland.
It was proposed the contract in the Highland area would go to BT but that was challenged by Oxfordshire-based telecommunications company, Gigaclear Ltd.
However, an agreement has now been reached on the case, although the terms of the settlement remain confidential.
R100 focuses on the five to six per cent of premises without superfast connectivity or any future upgrade plans which involves around 150,000 premises.
Responding to a statement from a Scottish Government spokesperson, Mr Stone said: “The airy worded dismissal of any need to stick to a timetable for any of my constituents who have been missing out on broadband coverage for far too long is absolutely unacceptable.
“They are simply being clever with words in order to wriggle out of yet another non-delivery, if and when that ever happens.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson confirmed an agreement has been reached between the two parties.
They said: “The legal challenge having been withdrawn, we are now focused on finalising the R100 North Lot contract award with BT at the earliest possible juncture to enable us to progress delivery of access to superfast broadband to people, businesses and communities in some of the most remote parts of Scotland.
“Speculation regarding the timescales for doing so is unhelpful. Ministers will keep parliament informed on progress and the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands has written to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee to update MSPs on progress.”
The spokesperson expected the contract to be signed by the end of the year with everyone who requires a superfast broadband connection to have one by the end of 2021.