Scottish Lib Dems express concern over future of troubled Highlands broadband project

This week, Scottish Lib Dem politicians representing the Highlands and Islands expressed their 'increasing concern' over the reported threat to the Scottish government's Reaching 100% (R100) programme, which promises to bring superfast broadband to the Highlands and Islands. The much delayed £600 million project was initially scheduled for completion for 2021, but was delayed until 2023 in January of this year. 

The scheme aims to improve the internet infrastructure connecting 180,000 premises across the region that were still stuck on slower broadband services. This represents roughly 5% of the premises in Scotland, and has already been mired in legal controversy

The joint letter follows reports that the ongoing legal action taken against the Scottish Government’s handling of procurement for the ‘Northern Lot’, may mean that its European state aid protection could expire before the contract is actually awarded.

In a letter to the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse, the Liberal Democrat representatives have asked for  

“reassurance that the Scottish Government is giving thought now to what happens in the event of the legal challenge being successful, or getting to the year end and state aid clearance cover being lost.”

Commenting, the group of Liberal Democrat MPs and MSPs said:

“Failure to deliver the R100 programme could have implications for the viability of living and working in the Highlands and Islands. In the context of a pandemic, that is the last thing our constituents need.

“Running down the clock is a dangerous strategy and our constituents need reassurance that the Scottish Government has a Plan B.

“The Scottish Government need to confirm this clearly and publicly, so that our constituents can be certain that this won’t simply be another lost promise."