Digital connectivity is critical to opening up economic opportunity in every part of Scotland. While telecommunications is reserved, the Scottish Government has taken action to ensure Scotland is better connected.
Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) have connected more than 870,000 premises so far, with more homes and business to come through. By the end of 2017, we had exceeded our target of 95% fibre broadband coverage across Scotland.
We will now go further and ensure that all homes and businesses across Scotland have access to superfast broadband by 2021.
We have committed £600 million to the programme ‘Reaching 100%’ – the single largest investment made by any government in the UK in digital connectivity – and will start awarding contracts for the first phase of the project, focusing on delivering superfast broadband access to Scotland’s rural and island communities to provide a truly national fibre network.
Even though telecoms is reserved to Westminster, the UK Government is contributing just £21 million to the ‘Reaching 100%’ programme – just 3% of the total.
We are committed to delivering free wi-fi throughout major town and city centres across Scotland. And we will aim to make Scotland the most attractive place in the UK to invest in telecoms and will match the UK government’s rates relief on certain new fibre investment.
On mobile coverage, the Tories continue to let down rural Scotland – it is unacceptable that only 17 per cent of Scotland’s landmass has 4G coverage, compared to 60 per cent in England. When legislation was being passed in parliament in the Digital Economy Bill, the UK government refused to accept SNP demands to have a policy giving priority to coverage for rural areas through licensing, which is the norm in Germany and other countries. They also abandoned promised action to protect consumers who are getting poor coverage.
In contrast, our Mobile Action Plan was the first of its kind in the UK. To deliver this, we are reforming planning measures to create favourable conditions to invest in infrastructure and have developed The Scottish 4G Infill Programme to address mobile ‘notspots’ across Scotland. The programme will fund a new mobile telephone masts in locations with no existing 4G mobile coverage to improve mobile connectivity for communities and businesses.