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Council leader calls for investment in digital connectivity for Highlands


By Alan Hendry

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Council leader Margaret Davidson argues that the need for a full fibre network across the Highlands 'has never been more critical'.
Council leader Margaret Davidson argues that the need for a full fibre network across the Highlands 'has never been more critical'.

Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson has insisted the north of Scotland must not be "disadvantaged by a digital divide".

She has written to Paul Wheelhouse, Scotland's minister for energy, connectivity and the islands, and Alister Jack, the Scottish secretary, setting out the case for urgent investment in digital connectivity in the Highlands.

“As we look to recover from this pandemic in the Highlands, a key element of that recovery will be to ensure that digital connectivity is available right across the Highlands," Councillor Davidson wrote. "This will be a critical enabler for individuals, communities and businesses as they get back on their feet.

It has emerged that the north could miss out on a crucial cut-off date for the R100 programme, or Reaching 100 per cent of household with superfast internet connectivity. This is due to a legal challenge brought by Oxfordshire-based Gigabit over BT Openreach being awarded preferred status to take the contract forward.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron, the Conservatives' shadow finance secretary, has warned the Scottish Government that any further delay in the R100 programme risks keeping some parts of the region in “the digital stone age”.

Councillor Davidson went on: "I have been frustrated and disappointed by the slow progress of R100 in the Highlands which has been delayed further by a contractual dispute. I am therefore really keen to discuss with both the Scottish and UK governments how they can speed up the delivery of a full fibre broadband network for the Highlands.

"The vision behind the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal is to position Inverness and the Highlands as a region of digital opportunity. If that vision is to become a reality, we need action now.

"It is simply not acceptable that we are disadvantaged by a digital divide. As we recover from this pandemic, the need for a full fibre network across the Highlands has never been more critical to our future.”



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