Rethink of SNP broadband scheme needed as only 3.6% of eligible households reached

11 Feb 2024
Beatrice Wishart MSP

Scottish Liberal Democrat rural affairs spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP has today called for a rethink of the SNP’s broadband rollout. Wishart said the voucher scheme has patently failed after a parliamentary question revealed that the government’s Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme has helped to connect just 3.6% of properties in eligible hard-to-reach areas.

The vouchers of up to £5,000 are available to homes and businesses with speeds less than 30Mbps that have been left out of the Scottish Government’s R100 superfast broadband-for-all and planned commercial investment.

In April 2022, the then Finance Secretary Kate Forbes revealed that 83,855 homes and businesses were eligible for support. In response to a new parliamentary question from Ms Wishart, however, the Scottish Government confirmed that just 3,047 vouchers have been issued.

Ms Wishart and Alistair Carmichael MP recently hosted a Northern Isles Digital Forum in Shetland which bought together stakeholders and the public to discuss digital connectivity in the isles.

Ms Wishart said:  

“A reliable internet connection is a modern day essential, yet the voucher scheme is the Scottish Government’s Plan B. Neither SNP plan to reach all homes with highspeed broadband has worked and a rethink is needed.

“Much is made of ensuring no one gets left behind but the fact is in island and rural areas they have been and vouchers are no alternative to those who are not reached by R100.

“People might be aware of the voucher scheme but on balance choose not to go down that route. The voucher scheme has never been good enough to plug gaps and connect those households and businesses left out of the original scheme.

“Everyone should have the digital tools they need to start a business, secure an education or access an online medical appointment no matter where they live.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats want to see a fresh push to connect every home up to a superfast connection to support business growth, education and public services in all areas."