The minister responsible for the R100 programme, to supply 30 mega-bits-per-second internet speed to every home by the end of 2021, has revealed that the Scottish Government will have only 2 years left to deliver on its 2015 election promise.
According to a response to questions raised by North East Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles, the minister has admitted that the tendering process for delivering the R100 programme will take almost two years and will only be complete by the end of 2019.
With the help from the UK Government, local authorities, business gateways and commercial operators, it took five years for Digital Scotland to raise the number of households with access to fibre broadband from 88% to 95%. Now the Scottish Government says it can complete the final 5%, covering many of the most remote, rural and hard to reach areas, in only 2 years.
In December 2017, ministers pledged £600 million toward delivering the programme but to-date only £28 million has been allocated.
Mr Rumbles said: “This is ridiculous situation. The Scottish Government has waited until the eleventh hour to deliver on its election promise and it now has the insurmountable task of delivering high-speed broadband to every home in Scotland within two years.
“In rural parts of Aberdeenshire, many homes barley reach speeds of 2 Mbps or less and I regularly hear from people who expected higher speeds through the Digital Scotland rollout but didn’t get what was promised. The situation is even worse for many remote and island communities.
“The Scottish Government should have started the process of planning the project before making the commitment to deliver it, back in 2015.”
Notes for editors:
- Parliamentary Question (07/05/19): Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government by what date the tendering process for the R100 programme will be complete; when the successful contractors will start work on the project, and how much of the £600 million allocated to the programme has been spent. S5W-22761
Paul Wheelhouse: The procurement process for R100 is now well underway and I can confirm that we have three highly credible bidders currently engaged in dialogue and we remain on track to award contracts before the end of this year. The procurement process is, however, complex and tightly bound by law and procurement rules. I will of course advise the Scottish Parliament first when we are in a position to award the contract
A sum of £28.2 million has been allocated in the 2019-20 budget to extend high quality, digital connectivity across Scotland. Due to the nature of the contractual terms likely to be deployed, much of the £600 million expenditure associated with delivery of our R100 commitment will not be seen until 2020 and beyond, with payments made on achievement of agreed milestones and payment in arrears of the achievement of milestones. This has also been the case under Scotland’s £400 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme.