I am delighted that survey work is about to get under way in Orkney as part of the Scottish Government-funded project to bring superfast broadband to everyone in the islands.
There is no doubt that Orkney and other island and rural areas in the north of Scotland have been at the back of the broadband queue in the UK.
Powers over connectivity and broadband are reserved to Westminster, so when the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government agreed to 95% superfast broadband coverage in the UK, it was pretty certain that places like Orkney wouldn’t even need to figure in the plans of whoever won the contracts.
Thankfully, the SNP Scottish Government has risen to the challenge of filling in some of the most challenging gaps left by Westminster’s weak target, stepping in to address this market failure.
Starting Work this Year
And now surveys are due to be carried out across Orkney this year ahead of laying cables to bring superfast broadband to Eday, Flotta, Hoy, Rousay, Sanday, Shapinsay and Stronsay.
It is all part of the £600 million Reaching 100% programme (R100). As well as Orkney, the £384 million North Lot contract will also see new subsea cables laid to islands in Shetland, Highland and Argyll and Bute.
The size of that challenge in this huge geographical area is reflected in the fact that the North Lot, which has half of all eligible premises for R100, is receiving 60% of the funding – a real investment in the Highlands and Islands.
Weather permitting, survey vessels aim to begin detailed groundwork in May, with cable laying beginning in Spring 2022.
Why is this necessary?
I think it is a shame that the UK Tory government has failed in its rollout of superfast fibre-optic broadband in the communities in Scotland that need it most.
If the pandemic has highlighted one thing it is that many of us have relied on superfast high-speed broadband to go about our daily lives and it is absolutely essential that everyone in Orkney can have access.
The Westminster government has demonstrated, yet again, that Orkney and the Highlands and Islands in general are too remote and unimportant to be bothered with. The SNP government with the limited resources made available to it is able to step in with a project specifically designed to ensure everybody, no matter where they are, has access to superfast broadband.
The SNP have saved the day this time but this won’t always be possible unless we have the full control over our economy only an Independent Scotland can bring. Remember this on May 6 and vote for the only party that will give us the freedom to do better for everybody no matter where they live.