Northern Isles parliamentarians respond to Which? findings on broadband speeds

Orkney and Shetland’s MSP and MP, Tavish Scott and Alistair Carmichael have reacted to a Which? report showing that Orkney has the slowest and Shetland has the second slowest broadband speeds of any area in Scotland by repeating calls for the UK and Scottish Governments to prioritise future investment in the islands.

“Which?” found the areas suffering from the slowest internet speeds in the UK were Orkney (3Mbps), Shetland (6.7Mbps), Argyll and Bute (7Mbps) and Moray (7.1Mbps).

Tavish, Liam, and Alistair have long campaigned for urgent improvement of local broadband services. The Scottish Government has committed to delivering high speed broadband to 100% of premises across Scotland by 2021. This R100 programme, however, remains in the procurement phase.

Reacting to the figures, Mr Scott said:

 “These figures are yet another reminder of the poor broadband speeds islanders are having to contend with, if they can get broadband at all.

“The Scottish Government will not meet its commitment to 100% high speed broadband coverage by 2021 without prioritising sufficient resources to our rural communities. There are serious concerns whether the timetable is possible but islanders must not be left behind.”

Liam McArthur added:

“This report underlines the raw deal that people in Orkney continue to get in terms of broadband services.  Not only is the level of coverage lower than anywhere else in the country, but average speeds are slower as well.

“The Scottish Government’s commitment to delivering high speed broadband to 100% of premises by 2021 is welcome, but the timetable is already challenging.  It is imperative, however, that funding is prioritised at those areas where the need is greatest.  That means an ‘islands first’ approach”.

Mr Carmichael also said:

“These figures will make difficult reading for both of Scotland’s Governments as they show the digital divide between the Northern Isles and the Central belt is getting wider, not narrower.

"The Scottish Government are about to launch their procurement for the next phase of broadband roll-out, and anything other than a focus on Scotland’s rural and islands communities would be a betrayal of their commitments to deliver reliable superfast broadband across the country.”

The Which? Press release is below.

Scotland’s broadband connections worst in the UK, Which? finds

Orkney, Shetland and Argyll and Bute have come bottom of a table ranking UK local authority areas by broadband speed, according to new Which? research.

The consumer champion analysed speed checker data in 32 Scottish local authority areas as well as England and Wales to determine the best and worst broadband connections in the country.

Which? found the areas suffering from the slowest internet connections in the UK were Orkney (3Mbps), Shetland (6.7Mbps), Argyll and Bute (7Mbps) and Moray (7.1Mbps).

Broadband users in some of these areas might find it hard to carry out online banking or to use streaming services like Netflix or BBC iPlayer due to slow internet.

Also lagging behind were the Highlands (8.9Mbps), Borders (9.3Mbps), Aberdeenshire (10.1Mbps), Perth and Kinross (10.1Mbps) and Na h-Eilean Siar (11.5Mbps).

At the other end of the scale, the analysis found that the fastest local authority in Scotland and third fastest in the UK for broadband speeds was West Dunbartonshire, with an average 29.6Mpbs.

To put this into context, this lottery means that downloading a film in the Orkney Islands will take around seven times longer than it would in West Dunbartonshire.

Other areas in Scotland benefiting from a faster connection included Inverclyde (26.9Mbps), Dundee City (23.1Mbps), North Lanarkshire (22Mbps) and East Renfrewshire (21.4Mbps).

Previous Which? research has shown that some households with sluggish broadband connections could get faster speeds - and save hundreds of pounds a year - by switching to a better deal.

The UK Government has pledged to ensure a bare minimum connection speed of 10 Megabits per second across the country by 2020.

The consumer champion’s data suggests that six of the 15 UK local authority areas that are currently failing to reach 10 Megabits per second are in Scotland.

The research – using data from Which?’s own broadband speed checker - shows the urgency of improving broadband services across many parts of Scotland and the rest of the UK - and the need to increase awareness of faster speeds, where they are available.

Despite the growing availability of higher speed broadband, many people were still not taking up the fastest service available in their area, according to the regulator, Ofcom.

Only 45 per cent of premises were signed up to superfast broadband despite the service being available to more than double that number, it said.

The Scottish Government has vowed to make sure all of Scotland has access to superfast broadband (speeds greater than 30Mbps) by 2021 – the “Reaching 100%” (R100) commitment.

Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said:

“It’s incredibly frustrating that so many Scots are still struggling to get a good broadband connection when so many of us rely heavily on the internet to carry out important everyday tasks.

“The Scottish Government must now press ahead with plans to provide 100% of the homes in Scotland with a decent broadband connection and make sure that no one is at a disadvantage because of where they live.”


Note to editors:

  • Which? supports Ofcom’s Boost Your Broadband campaign which helps consumers get the best from their broadband and find out if they could get a faster connection without paying more.
  • Customers looking for cheaper broadband can compare deals with Which? Switch Broadband, a transparent and impartial way to compare tariffs and find the best broadband supplier
  • Data from Which? Broadband speed checker in the year to September 30th 2018. Based on 277,575 speed tests. Speeds presented are median values. Rural/Urban classification 2011 of Local Authority Districts.
  • Multiple factors can slow connections. Those lucky enough to live in areas where fibre-optic cables have been installed to replace copper telephone wires are likely to get faster speeds.
  • Distance from the nearest telephone exchange is also a factor – even homes in town centres can be some distance from their local exchange
  • And the more people living under the same roof means that there will be the added strain with activities such as social media, streaming services and or online games all slowing down the average connection.
  • Full PDF here

Local Authority Area


Mbps recorded by Which? speed checker

Orkney Islands

(Scotland) Very Remote Small Town


Shetland Islands

(Scotland) Very Remote Small Town


Argyll and Bute

(Scotland) Very Remote Rural



(Scotland) Remote Rural



(Scotland) Remote Rural


Scottish Borders

(Scotland) Remote Rural



(Scotland) Accessible Rural


Perth and Kinross

(Scotland) Accessible Rural


Na h-Eileanan Siar

(Scotland) Very Remote Small Town



(Scotland) Accessible Rural


Dumfries and Galloway

(Scotland) Accessible Small Town



(Scotland) Accessible Small Town


North Ayrshire

(Scotland) Accessible Rural


Aberdeen City

(Scotland) Accessible Small Town


East Ayrshire

(Scotland) Accessible Rural



(Scotland) Other Urban Area



(Scotland) Accessible Rural



(Scotland) Accessible Small Town


South Ayrshire

(Scotland) Remote Rural



(Scotland) Large Urban Area


West Lothian

(Scotland) Accessible Rural


South Lanarkshire

(Scotland) Remote Rural


Glasgow City

(Scotland) Large Urban Area


City of Edinburgh

(Scotland) Large Urban Area


East Lothian

(Scotland) Large Urban Area



(Scotland) Accessible Rural


East Dunbartonshire

(Scotland) Large Urban Area


East Renfrewshire

(Scotland) Large Urban Area


North Lanarkshire

(Scotland) Accessible Rural


Dundee City

(Scotland) Large Urban Area



(Scotland) Accessible Rural


West Dunbartonshire

(Scotland) Large Urban Area




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