North MSP secures Broadband Commitment from Government

12 January 2010

Peter Peacock, Highlands and Islands regional Labour MSP has secured a commitment from the Scottish Government to increase the broadband budget available through EU LEADER funding for rural development, if demand shows there is a need. Mr Peacock has been actively campaigning to improve broadband provision across the Highlands and Islands.

Mr Peacock commented, "The importance of a quality broadband connection, particularly to our more rural communities, is growing.

"I have recently had a series of meetings with stakeholders who can facilitate improvements to the current situation where in parts of the Highlands and Islands connection speeds are low or conventional broadband is simply not available at all.

"I recently wrote to the Scottish Government asking them to use some of the windfall funds the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) is gaining from favourable £/euro exchange rates.

"Scotland has been allocated 2.9m of Euro funding as part of the European Recovery Package to improve broadband support for businesses and communities in rural Scotland and I asked the government to add £15 million to that."

"I have now had confirmation from the Rural Affairs Minister that if there is a significant demand for broadband support, to the extent that there are budgetary constraints, it would be possible to review the situation at that time and reallocate SRDP funding.

"This is a significant breakthrough which has been secured and I encourage communities facing broadband difficulties to contact me so that I can put them in touch with their LEADER Local Action Group who will be administering funds for local community broadband.

"The UK government has also announced a new £1bn fund to provide super fast broadband to rural and hard to reach areas.

"I have tabled a parliamentary question asking the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to secure a reasonable share of the funding.

"This Digital Britain in Scotland initiative has a 12 week consultation period and I would urge anyone in the Highlands and Islands with an interest to respond to it as it is vital for our area’s future that we secure our share of this new funding. "

The consultation document can be accessed at : http://www.berr.gov.uk/consultations/page54155.html

Mr Peacock added, "Broadband issues continue to be a significant part of my postbag highlighting the importance of this technology, both economically and socially, across the Highlands and Islands.

"It is now vital that communities do act to access the available broadband funding and I will be encouraging that wherever possible to ensure that progress is made."

 

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