Contracts signing postponed
Ministers under fire after broadband roll-out delayed
Paul Wheelhouse: ‘timeline extended’ (pic: Terry Murden)
Ministers have pushed the roll-out of superfast broadband into the slow lane, postponing the programme and prompting a chorus of criticism from opposition MSPs.
In a written answer to the Scottish Parliament, the SNP has admitted there have been unexpected delays and will not be in a position to sign a contract until the end of 2019.
Labour said the Scottish Government risked breaching a directive from the telecoms regulator that everyone will have a legal right to a decent connection from March 2020.
The government said the bidders involved in building the network had requested an extension, giving them more time to remodel their solutions.
“This will see the procurement timeline extended, with the appointment of a preferred bidder or bidders anticipated by the end of September 2019 with contract signature by the end of the year,” said Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Connectivity.
The Scottish Tories noted that Fergus Ewing, the rural economy secretary, was so sure of achieving his target that he said he would resign if the Scottish government did not deliver it on time.
Jamie Greene, Scottish Conservative connectivity spokesman said: “The SNP asked the UK Government for the powers and funding to rollout superfast broadband, but then overpromised and under delivered, leaving our remote and rural communities at a significant disadvantage.
Scottish Labour Rural Economy Spokesperson Rhoda Grant said: “Many of these delays have been avoidable. The Scottish Government have had ample time to plan, but have sat on their hands and blamed the UK Government – so with the addition of these delays, many people across the country are likely to be left behind for too long.
“I hope that the announcement from Ofcom that everyone will have a legal right to a decent connection from March 2020 is adding much needed extra pressure onto the Government.
“In remote rural areas, digital connectivity is vital to a decent quality of life. Any delay to providing superfast broadband to 100% of the population means leaving people behind. The Scottish Government should stop hiding behind the detail and come clean.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat Mike Rumbles said: “The Scottish Government has had over four years to iron-out the details of how it plans to deliver the SNP’s election promise of 100% access to superfast broadband. Announcing yet another delay to the bidding process at this stage, with only 30 months of the programme remaining, shows complete incompetence and no appreciation for the thousands of homes that still cannot access even the most basic internet speeds.
“Despite all the warm words, the Scottish Government’s direct investment into broadband has been a drop in the ocean compared to other investors such as BDUK, local authorities, HIE and commercial operators. Ministers now have to admit that they have failed to deliver on their promises and get to work delivering the improvements that they have been talking about for over five years.”The government said the bidders involved in building the network had requested an extension, giving them more time to remodel their solutions.