Local MSP Rhoda Grant, Labour, has criticised the Scottish Government for delays in the delivery of Superfast Broadband across Scotland.
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.”
The first phase of the £600 million ‘Reaching 100%’ broadband programme focussing on delivering superfast broadband access to Scotland’s rural and island communities was announced by the Scottish Government at the end of 2017.
The procurement was to be made up of three regional Lots (North, Central and South), with each containing a mix of the commercially attractive rural areas and harder-to-reach communities.
Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands in the Scottish Government said:
“We are determined that R100 programme delivers the best possible value and benefit for Scotland and have designed a procurement process to achieve this.
“Key to doing so is to ensure a highly competitive process that results in the £600 million funding for this programme delivering on our commitment to provide access to superfast broadband to every home and business in Scotland.
“An Invitation to Participate in Dialogue was issued last Spring which resulted in four bidders being short-listed.
“Following the initial round of dialogue, a request for an extension of six weeks was granted to enable bidders to prepare initial submissions. Subsequently, a complaint was lodged, by one of the bidders, with the National Competency Centre, (managed by the UK Government as State Aid leads) citing a breach of the Code of Conduct by another bidder.
“This was resolved satisfactorily but resulted in a necessary pause in the procurement with a corresponding six week delay.”
The Scottish Government has provided the bidders with the extension they sought, 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 2019.