Scots leaving rural areas 'because of slow broadband speeds' header image

Published: 10th Oct 2013

People in rural parts of Scotland are upping sticks in order to live in areas where faster broadband speeds are more accessible.

This is the suggestion of rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead, who has told MSPs that the Scottish countryside is witnessing a new phenomenon of 'digital refugees' because residents can no longer put up with such slow internet speeds.

Mr Lochhead claimed there is mounting evidence to suggest people are keen to relocate from rural regions to more built-up towns and cities - and concerns that almost one-fifth of properties in the Highlands and Islands will remain on limited speeds for some time have only served to accelerate this rural depopulation.

Speaking to Holyrood's rural affairs committee, Mr Lochhead said: "While you have traditional conversations about people leaving rural communities due to lack of access to higher education, affordable housing or employment, now there is an added factor where there is not good connectivity that can also lead to rural depopulation."

He explained that although the Scottish Government has stated it will use more resources to make sure every possible way of improving rural broadband is explored, the prospect of more people leaving their homes in the countryside is becoming increasingly real.

"Research I have seen in the last year or so has started to show some evidence of that," he observed, adding this should be a cause for concern for everyone.

It was put forward that despite finance secretary John Swinney pledging 95 per cent of homes and businesses in Scotland will be connected to superfast broadband by 2018, some regions will not stand to benefit unless more funding is made available.

Although Mr Lochhead said there is evidence to suggest the digital refugee phenomenon could be on the cards in rural Scotland, the Scottish Government responded by saying it did not know of the figures the politician was referring to.

People in rural parts of Scotland who do not want to move home in order to enjoy faster broadband could find satellite broadband from Avonline - an reliable and easy to install service - is the best alternative.