In response to a Parliamentary Question lodged by Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles, the minister responsible for delivering Scottish Government’s R100 programme has dropped the 2021 target for the project. Admitting that it would be ‘challenging’ to meet their previous commitment and incorrectly claiming that the timetable always had a ‘degree of flexibility’.
As far back as 2011 the SNP have been promising superfast broadband for rural homes in Scotland and their election promise in 2016 clearly stated ‘Our manifesto pledged [is] to deliver superfast broadband to 100% of premises in Scotland by 2021.’
Despite virtually none of the £600 million promised for the programme having been spent on delivering 30Mbps to homes in Scotland, the target date had already been moved back to the end of 2021 and is now being pushed further into the next Parliament.
Mr Rumbles said: “The minister’s response is pretty unequivocal, this SNP Government has failed to deliver the promise it made to thousands of rural households in the 2016 election.
“The target of 2021 has already slipped back once and with only 2 years left to deliver the programme the contractors are not even in place to start the work. Meanwhile dozens of rural and remote communities are being left behind in the race to improve access to online services and technology, with some households barely able to get internet speeds of 1 Megabit-per-second.
“The minister claims he wants to be clear about the new timetable for the project but his response to me is anything but. This government has failed and it will be up to the next Scottish Government to pick up the bill, I hope that the SNP will be clear about that when they set out their next set of election promises.”
Notes for editors:
- See the SNP 2016 pledge here: https://www.snp.org/our-priorities-for-government/
- Parliamentary Written Question - 27 September 2019 (Holding Reply Issued 26 September 2019) Index Heading: Organisational Development and Operations
Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government whether it will confirm that there will be no change to the timetable to deliver the R100 programme by the end of 2021. S5W-25263
Paul Wheelhouse (Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands): Given the complexity of the procurement, legally, financially and technically, we have always acknowledged 2021 would be a challenging target to meet, having personally acknowledged this in debate and in responding to parliamentary questions and correspondence prior to and since the summer recess.
As with any procurement of this scale and value, where there is competition for contracts, the process is a complex one and we have had to build in a degree of flexibility to respond to a range of circumstances and bidders’ requirements during the competitive dialogue phase. This has included extending timelines and allowing for a pause at key parts of the process at the request of potential bidders to reflect changes in the external environment, such as the requirement to provide a revised ‘intervention area’ (listing all eligible premises), taking into consideration commercial coverage plans and changes to planned Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) deployment. This was in part due to direction from UK Ministers that future Gainshare activity be focused on full fibre solutions, resulting in greater than expected changes across the country.
We are very conscious of the strong interest among Members and their constituents in having as much clarity as possible on the rollout and stakeholders’ desire to have this as quickly as possible. Indeed one of the key lessons learned from the current Digital Scotland contracts is ensuring that the public has early clarity on deployment plans. We have committed to publishing clear deployment plans as early as possible, once the contracts have been awarded – this will ensure that the information provided is as accurate as possible. However, I want to reassure you that procurement for R100 is progressing well, and we are intending to award a contract or contracts by the end of this calendar year.