Broadband issues on agenda as Scottish parties consider rural issues header image

Published: 31st Mar 2016

The issue of broadband provision in some of the remotest areas of the UK has been the focus of the latest campaigning as the Scottish Parliamentary election approaches.

Both the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Conservatives have been highlighting their policies for rural areas, as their party leaders visited some of the remoter parts of Scotland.

First minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon used a visit to the Borders town of Hawick to emphasise the Scottish government's ongoing commitment to provide basic digital connectivity to 95 per cent of properties in Scotland by 2017.

She said: "Our economy depends on fast, reliable and future-proofed digital infrastructure."

"Where we cannot simply lay cables we will use innovative methods, like mobile masts, satellite technology and community owner broadband, to ensure that no one in our rural communities misses out."

Conservative leader Ruth Davidson was in the Cairngorms to launch the party's programme for rural areas, arguing many of these had been let down by the SNP administration in Edinburgh.

The issue of broadband is unlikely to decide the election as the majority of Scots live in well-connected urban areas and the SNP is widely expected to win another majority in any case. However, it remains a critical issue in areas where remoteness from towns and cities and the topographical challenges posed by the mountainous landscape make installation both very expensive and technically difficult.

Masts and overhead cabling may prove unpopular in certain areas where above-ground structures such as wind turbines are already proving controversial, particularly in and around Scotland's two national parks. In some areas, such as along the A9 in the Cairngorms, cables are being relocated underground and pylons dismantled.