Parties fail to connect over broadband issue

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The SNP has hit back at claims that the ‘dithering and delay’ of the Scottish Government has left the Borders behind in superfast broadband.

Borders MP John Lamont called for the UK government to work directly with councils rather than deal with Holyrood, after meeting with the Westminster minister for digital, Matt Hancock MP, at the home of John Williams, a constituent who lives near Heriot.

Mr Lamont said: “We need to act to bridge the broadband gap between urban and rural Scotland, the broadband haves and broadband have nots.

“The current model is failing. BT have ignored the harder to get to residents and communities because they knew that it would be too costly. Rural parts of Scotland have been let down by the Scottish Government’s dithering and delay and we are still far behind the rest of the UK in terms of broadband delivery.

“I’m therefore pleased the UK Government agree with my suggestion that they work directly with local authorities for the next phase of superfast broadband delivery.

Mr Lamont claimed that figures from Ofcom show that in rural areas of Scotland only 46 per cent of properties have access to superfast broadband, worse than rural Wales (57 per cent), rural Northern Ireland (52 per cent) and rural England (62 per cent).

And Mr Hancock accused the Scottish Government of “sitting on” UK Government funding and announced the UK Government will work directly with local authorities in future.

However, their claims about the figures were hotly contested by local SNP MSP Paul Wheelhouse.

He said: “This is a vitally important issue and the people of the Borders deserve the facts – not Tory spin.

“Eighty per cent of premises in the Borders are connected to fibre broadband. Without the Scottish Government’s efforts, the figure would be only 39 per cent.

“The claims made by the Tories about Scotland’s performance are inaccurate and the industry regulator, Ofcom, recognises that fact.

“There’s more work to do, but our £400 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme is benefiting the Borders and the whole of the south of the country.

“Without it, some rural areas would have very poor coverage or none at all – a fact the Tories have conveniently overlooked. The Conservatives should be thanking the Scottish Government for saving them from the embarrassment of failing to deliver superfast broadband for the people of the Borders.”