Alistair Carmichael, MP for the Northern Isles, has called on the UK Government to match for the rest of the most rural parts of the country, the additional support that it has given to Northern Ireland to roll out digital infrastructure.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr. Carmichael said:
“On Monday we were all pleased to learn that the people of Northern Ireland are to benefit from another £150 million worth of investment in digital infrastructure. This is necessary for the development and growth of their economy, and it is very welcome news indeed. On Tuesday then we learned from the consumer’s association Which? that the poorest average connectivity speeds in the whole country are in Orkney and Shetland. When are we going to get our cash?”
Responding on behalf of the Government, the Rt. Hon. Matthew Hancock, Minister of State for Digital, said:
“Of course we put enormous investment into the North of Scotland and the islands in order to expand both fixed broadband and mobile phone connectivity, and he knows that. It is a great pity that the contract signed to get broadband to Scotland were signed more slowly than with England or with Wales, and that is because I am afraid we devolved the responsibility for that to the Scottish Government.”
Speaking after the exchange, Mr. Carmichael said:
“I am pleased that the Government view rolling out superfast broadband as such a priority that they are willing to put more money into it, but it is disappointing that this money is only going to Northern Ireland.
“The money which was originally given to Broadband Delivery UK has been stretched as far as it can go, used in the Highlands and Islands, and in Northern Ireland. Undoubtedly, some of that money could have been better spent, but this huge investment in Northern Ireland clearly shows that more money is needed to finish the job.
“The UK and SNP government ought to stop squabbling about who is responsible for broadband roll-out, and start working together to ensure that the Northern Isles gets the level of investment which it needs to deliver reliable broadband.”