Every home and business in Scotland will be able to access superfast broadband by 2021, ministers confirmed today as the 2018/19 draft budget was revealed at Holyrood.
The announcement marks the start of procurement for the Reaching 100% (R100) programme which will deliver fast and reliable internet, with a focus on rural and island communities.
Finance secretary Derek Mackay said the capital investment package would be made over the next four financial years to March 2022.
He added the Scottish Government’s digital Scotland superfast broadband programme was on track to reach 95 per cent fibre broadband coverage by the end of this year.
Rural economy and connectivity Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “This is the biggest public investment ever made in a UK broadband project. It is a truly transformative moment for our broadband infrastructure and a statement of our intent to make Scotland a world-class digital nation.
“Fast and reliable internet connection is vital for the economic and social wellbeing of all communities. This ambitious investment – which is more than three times what the UK Government is putting towards their own fibre broadband rollout - will revitalise the prospects of rural areas right across Scotland.
“Building on the success of the Digital Scotland programme, we will deliver a future-proofed, national fibre network that will place rural Scotland among the best connected places anywhere in Europe.
“I am confident that the scale of our investment, and of our ambition, will attract interest from a wide range of telecoms suppliers across the UK and Europe. ”
Mr Mackay said: “I was pleased to use this year’s budget to set out our plans for the future of superfast broadband in Scotland. We will put in the money over the next four years to deliver a £600 million programme of investment, ensuring every home or business premise in Scotland has access to superfast broadband.”
Rural conncectivity prompted a row between SNP ministers and the Conservatives last month when Ochil and South Perthshire MP Luke Graham attacked the Scottish Government for failing to do enough to get superfast services to householders.
Graham asked Theresa May to join him in calling on the devolved administration “to do more and to constructively engage with departments in Westminster to deliver this crucial service”.
Mr Ewing later responded that his team had rejected phased programmes used elsewhere in the UK in favour of a large-scale roll-out.