Scotland is asking the UK government for a very large share of the £200 million set aside for Digital Britain.
Peter Peacock, a Labour member of the Scottish Parliament, opened a debate on broadband in Scotland and said that he welcomed the Digital Britain report – particularly the part that relates to broadband.
In the Highlands and Islands the returns from the marketplace are at their lowest because of the low population being widely dispersed. No company wants to invest in infrastructure there and there will be no return on the investment.
Peacock met Stephen Timms, the UK minister presiding over the Digital Britain report a few weeks back. Peacock said: “The Scottish Government has a strong role to play in making a case for a very big share of the £200 million. I would not support talk of a per capita share, because our needs are greater and we are further behind many parts of the UK. We require a good slug—to use a technical term—of that £200 million. In due course, we will also need a good slug of the £1 billion that is coming along.”
He said the Highlands and Islands could leapfrog the 2Mbps commitment the UK government suggested by taking chunks of the £200 million, the £1 billion and the Leader programme.
There is work going on in attempting to connect the Islanders and the Highlanders, but Peacock suggested the foundation of a community broadband support unit to bring community and individual efforts together.
Jim Mather, the SNP minister, said the Scottish Government is at an advanced stage to develop a spec for a research project on broadband. He said he was due to meet the UK minister, Stephen Timms on th 22nd February to discuss the Digital Britain report. There is a case for a better than pro rata share of funding.