Broadband plans to forge on

DUMFRIES and Galloway Council have agreed to continue plans to bring Next Generation broadband brought to the region following the announcement of a £68.8 million fund handed to Scotland for the cause.

Having joined forces with Scottish Borders Council, the two authorities will now finalise the South of Scotland Local Broadband Plan for submission to Scottish Government.

Gavin Stevenson, Chief Executive of Dumfries and Galloway Council, is Project Executive of the South of Scotland Next Generation Broadband project. He said; “This decision is an important step. Public services across the South of Scotland are working together on a submission to secure national funding to revolutionise broadband connectivity across the region. This is a shared priority of all the partners and strongly supported by the private sector.”

Ivor Hyslop, Joint Chairman of the South of Scotland Alliance (SoSA) and Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, said; “We are all working to secure a future for our region. We will need the same superfast broadband speeds that are available elsewhere in the country, and across the globe, to promote economic regeneration, community development and public sector efficiencies.”

The broadband would benefit services such as the NHS. John Burns, Chief Executive of NHS Dumfries and Galloway, said; “Next Generation Broadband services are vital to the region in order that public services can be delivered in more efficient and innovative ways. We will be relying on that connectivity across the public sector, our partners and most importantly, our residents.”

Speaking after the Council meeting at which the decision was taken, SNP Group Leader Rob Davidson said: “This is a crucial investment in Dumfries and Galloway’s future. In fact it would be hard to overstate just how significant this project will be. Digital communications can overcome issues of remoteness and distance and allow this region to compete on a more level playing field with the rest of Scotland.

“It’s not a question of whether or not we can afford to do it, but whether or not the region can afford to do without decent broadband in the future. I think, in the long term, it will become a ‘must-have’ for all parts of the public and private sector as well as for domestic users and communities.

“The fly in the ointment, however, is the level of funding that has so far been allocated by Westminster to Scotland to support these projects.”

Some poloticians last week claimed the funding allocated was not enough for Scotland, but experts responded by pointing out that the £68.8m figure is £25m more than Scotland would have received if it had been calculated on the basis of population share using the Barnett formula; a mechanism used by the UK Treasury to adjust the amounts of public expenditure allocated to UK states.