Government accused of 'sleight of hand'

Ewing admits superfast link may not reach all homes

Fergus EwingScottish government connectivity minister Fergus Ewing has admitted that it may not be able to fulfil a pledge to guarantee superfast broadband to every home.

The promise was repeated during last week’s Scottish Budget as part of the government’s investment in infrastructure.

In answer to a question from Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles, Mr Ewing said the speed of the internet in homes would not be the responsibility of the Scottish Government and would depend on commercial operators. 

Ofcom’s latest Connected Nations report highlighted that only 87% of home in Scotland have access to 30mbps internet speed, despite the Scottish Government claiming that 95% of homes now have superfast fibre broadband. 

Mr Rumbles said: “The Cabinet Secretary believes that this sleight of hand will convince people that the Scottish Government is fulfilling its commitment to delivering superfast internet to every home in Scotland. In reality, many homes in rural communities are in danger of missing out altogether. 

“Ofcom have reported that 1 in 8 homes cannot access superfast speeds, despite the Government claiming that it is only 1 in 20.

“Delivering superfast speeds to the final 5% of homes will be far more challenging than anything that has come before and the Cabinet Secretary has confessed today that not every home will get superfast internet even if, and it is a big if, 100% fibre coverage is delivered.”

Later, Mr Rumbles produced figures from the Scottish Parliament’s own independent research library (SPICe) confirming that the Scottish Government will fail to deliver its own target of 95% coverage of access to superfast broadband.

Mr Ewing referred to superfast broadband as 30mbp, as defined by Ofcom and the EU.

However, ThinkBroadband figures provided to the Scottish Liberal Democrats by SPICe show that only 92.5% of homes in Scotland can access speeds of 30mbps, while in England the figure is 94.8%. In some rural areas of Scotland ThinkBroadband figures show that this level of provision falls to as low as 68% in Orkney and Shetland.

Mr Rumbles said: “The Scottish Government are trying to muddy the water and claim they have delivered on a promise that they have not. Ofcom and even the Parliament’s own independent library have now provided figures to the contrary.

“This does not bode well for the next phase of the project. If the Scottish Government continue to try and fudge the figures, it could mean that many communities in rural areas across Scotland will not get what they have been promised and could miss out on superfast broadband altogether.”

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