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'Chronically poor broadband service' is holding back the far north, says Stone

By Gordon Calder

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THE "chronically poor broadband service" in the far north is holding the area back, according to Caithness, Sutherland and easter Ross MP, Jamie Stone.

He said the quality of the service "is one of the biggest complaints" he receives from local people. Mr Stone was speaking after hitting out the UK Government when it emerged that it had spent almost none of its £5 billion Project Gigabit fund which was launched over a year ago.

The Liberal Democrat MP wrote to Nadine Dorries, the Secretary of State for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) and urged her to cut the red tape and move the project on at a faster pace.

He also highlighted the need for better co-operation between the UK and Scottish Governments to allow better broadband to be delivered to Highland communities.

Jamie Stone wants action taken to speed up the broadband project
Jamie Stone wants action taken to speed up the broadband project

The multi-billion-pound scheme was announced by the Prime Minister in March 2021 and promised to provide ‘lightning-fast broadband to all parts of the country,’ but reports suggest that only very small areas of the country have since been earmarked for connectivity.

Mr Stone said: "Across Caithness, Sutherland and easter Ross, the chronically poor broadband service is one of the biggest complaints I receive from local people. It is holding our region back.

"The UK and Scottish Governments really need to be working together to prioritise the north of Scotland, where speeds are lagging far behind those in the central belt.

"People in remote and rural areas cannot afford any further broadband bureaucracy. That’s why Liberal Democrats will continue to push for a programme of broadband ‘catchup zones’ to urgently narrow the gap between the fastest and the slowest speeds."

In his letter, Mr Stone, said: "As an MP for a vast, rural constituency, and indeed as Liberal Democrat DCMS spokesperson, this news is incredibly concerning.

"I am writing to you with a simple request: to do all that you can to scrap the broadband bureaucracy that is currently plaguing progress."

He added: "Furthermore, please put constitutional politics completely to one side and work closely with the Scottish Government to see that fast broadband is delivered to my constituents without further delay. To quote one of my constituents, “I don’t care where it comes from, I just want it done.

This is a real opportunity for ‘levelling up’ to be more than just words on a page - but there must be no more delay."

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