There is to be a further delay to the roll out of improved Broadband connectivity to the Highlands and Islands due to a legal challenge. The Scottish Government announced on the 10th of October that BT plc was the sole bidder for the areas covering Central and South Scotland. The contracts were signed on Monday 16th of December.
Gigaclear Ltd has mounted a legal challenge on the proposed awarding of the contract for the North. This means that R100 has been delayed whilst this is ongoing.
The delay has been criticised by MSPs who represent the region.
Rhoda Grant MSP, Labour said:
“Yet again, we have delays with the Highlands and Islands getting access to improved broadband. Contracts in other parts of Scotland are signed and sealed but the north remains in limbo.
“This is a far cry from the Scottish Government’s claims to have everyone in Scotland connected to superfast broadband by 2021. At this rate, we could be lucky if contracts are signed by then, never mind the infrastructure improved.
“It is not good enough, the north deserves, and needs, better.”
Liberal Democrat MSP Liam MacArthur said:
“The Scottish Government now face separate legal challenges over contracts for the Northern Isles Ferry service and the R100 broadband programme. This is a dismal track record when it comes to delivering key services for our islands.
“To add insult to injury, the contracts for Central and South lots have now been signed off, opening up the prospect that island businesses and residents will once again be left behind when it comes to broadband roll out.
“Gigaclear are of course within their rights to challenge this process but I would strongly urge Ministers to ensure that a resolution is found swiftly”.
Currently Gigaclear provide superfast Broadband in England covering counties in the South West, South East and the Midlands. They specialise in providing services to rural communities.
In answer to a question from Stewart Stevenson MSP, SNP, Paul Wheelhouse Scottish Government Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, said:
“Following my announcement on 10 October that BT plc was the sole bidder for lots 2 and 3, covering Central and South Scotland, I can confirm that these contracts were signed on Monday 16 December.
“BT plc has also been selected as the preferred bidder for lot 1, covering the North area.
“We had intended to finalise governance and sign this contract in the coming weeks. However, I can confirm that this award is now subject to a legal challenge from Gigaclear Ltd, which the Scottish Government is currently considering and seeking advice on.
“This will include consideration of the potential impact on the North lot and I will update Parliament as soon as I have more information. This development does not impact the Central and South lots.”