Northern Isles representatives Alistair Carmichael MP and Beatrice Wishart MSP have written to the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, calling for improved isles connectivity to be a positive legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic. Highlighting the increased need for strong connections due to “work from home” guidance and the ongoing challenges faced by isolated communities such as Foula and Skerries in Shetland, the Liberal Democrat parliamentarians call for close cooperation between the UK and Scottish governments with telecoms providers to improve service.
Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:
“Poor connectivity is a challenge we are well familiar with in the isles and these challenges have been thrown into stark relief by the impact of coronavirus. The need for social distancing has made us more reliant than ever on digital connectivity and people are no longer able to tolerate inconsistent connections.
“Ministers in the UK and Scottish governments need to take seriously our call for a bespoke action plan to support connectivity isles communities in the wake of this crisis. Internet access is a lifeline, not a luxury. We have waited far too long in the Northern Isles to access what should be a basic requirement for everyone. After Covid-19 it should be clear that we cannot wait any longer”
Ms Wishart added:
“As services have moved online in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the digital divide has been exacerbated. Islanders have been waiting years for superfast broadband. There must now be a determined effort from both governments and service providers to reach people and business in Shetland who have been left behind. I have also written to the Scottish Government to seek assurances that its promise that everyone will be able to access superfast broadband by the end of 2021 will be delivered.
“Good connectivity is vital so people can keep in touch but also to work and learn from home, which will be necessary for some time to come. It’s also essential for Shetland’s economy to be able to recover from the pandemic and future-proof the delivery of services.”