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“Yet more costs and delays” to SNP’s broadband rollout in Highlands

By Tom Ramage

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The Scottish Government have confirmed they are still in the process of finalising the contract with BT to deliver superfast broadband to the Highlands.

Construction is on hold until the procurement contract is signed, which the Scottish Government anticipate will happen “by the end of this calendar year.”

MSP Edward Mountain: 'Yet more costs'
MSP Edward Mountain: 'Yet more costs'

In answer to Edward Mountain MSP’s parliamentary question, the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and Islands confirmed that “it is only when there is an agreed contract in place that it will be possible to accurately confirm exactly when physical work will begin.”

The Scottish Government promised in 2016 to deliver superfast broadband to all in Scotland by the end of the Parliament year in 2021, but the project has suffered from multiple delays due to a protracted procurement process and a legal dispute, which was only resolved in recent weeks.

The minister confirmed the Scottish Government was unwilling to divulge details of how the legal dispute with Gigaclear Ltd was resolved.

Via a twitter exchange with Mr Mountain, the minister stated: “We can’t comment on details of agreement that is covered by non-disclosure condition, but dispute is dropped.”

The Highland MSP replied: “A non-disclosure agreement says it all. So a cash deal which costs the taxpayer on top of a voucher scheme.”

He added: “SNP government promised superfast broadband by 2021. Not delivered. A £50m voucher scheme, an unquantifiable legal pay off and delivery projected by 2027. Those are the facts.”

He later commented:“Yet more costs and delays to the SNP Government’s superfast broadband rollout.

"The SNP Government’s agreement with Gigaclear to drop legal proceedings will not have come cheap. It also suggests the SNP were at fault during the procurement process too.

"However, due to a non-disclosure agreement, the minister is unwilling to make those costs clear to the taxpayer, who are now paying for the SNP Government’s expensive mistakes.

"The SNP Government has broken its promise to deliver R100 by 2021 and it is now very likely that Highlanders will have to wait until 2027 for a fibre connection to superfast broadband.

"This is unacceptable and I am continuing to press the SNP Government to make swift progress.”

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