Telecoms is a reserved matter which means it remains the responsibility of the UK Parliament. However, the central importance of good quality digital connectivity to Scotland's economy has meant that it is an area where the Scottish Government has had to become increasingly active, investing funding to enhance Scotland's digital infrastructure.
Our Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband ( DSSB) programme is delivering over £400 million investment to drive broadband coverage right across Scotland and will extend fibre access to at least 95% of premises by the end of 2017. Without our investment, only 66% of premises would have been reached, with as little as 21% coverage across the Highlands and no coverage at all in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.
The DSSB programme is delivering at pace and having a huge impact. By the end of January 2017, the programme had connected over 700,000 premises. Audit Scotland reviewed the programme in 2016 and concluded that we are on track to meet our coverage targets, with more premises than initially planned able to access superfast speeds - 87% against an initial estimate of 77%. Ofcom also highlighted that superfast broadband coverage in Scotland increased by 14% over the last 12 months - the largest increase of any of the UK nations.
Crucially, we will go further. The Scottish Government is committed to extending superfast broadband access to every premise in Scotland by 2021. We will launch new procurement activity later in 2017 to deliver new public investment, focused on bringing superfast broadband to the hardest to reach premises - those that won't benefit from the Digital Scotland programme.
Achieving 100% superfast broadband coverage will support rural development and enable innovation and growth across the economy.
Improving mobile coverage across Scotland - extending access to 4G services while laying the groundwork for future 5G deployment - is also a priority for the Scottish Government. In 2016, we agreed an action plan with the four UK mobile operators - the only one of its kind in the UK - aimed at improving coverage. We are now working with industry, supported by the Scottish Futures Trust, to develop options for an infill programme, to help fill 4G coverage gaps.
The Scottish Government's draft budget confirmed that up to £112 million will be invested during 2017-18 to improve digital infrastructure across Scotland. This is the first of a multi-year investment plan to deliver our digital ambitions. The funding will support the final phases of the DSSB programme and enable new activity to begin on the Reaching 100% programme and mobile infill.
Email: Stuart McKeown
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House