Communities could lose out on broadband and mobile coverage

Further progress is needed on broadband and mobile coverage in Scotland as some communities are at risk of being left behind, according to Westminster's Scottish Affairs Committee.

There is political disagreement over the roll-out of broadband. Picture: contributed

The committee has called on the UK and Scottish governments to work together following “intense political disagreement” over the roll-out of broadband north of the Border.

On mobile coverage the committee found Scotland continues to lag behind the rest of the UK, with only 30 per cent of the country covered by 4G services from all operators.

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MPs warned that remote and rural areas “must not be forgotten” in plans to deliver universal access to mobile coverage.

The committee has made a series of recommendations on digital connectivity following its inquiry into the issue.

It found that while access to superfast broadband has improved in Scotland over the past few years, it still 
lags behind coverage in England.

MPs also found a significant difference between mobile coverage in rural and urban areas, with the former tending to have poorer coverage and slower speeds.

Its recommendations include a call for the UK and Scottish governments to “find ways to effectively work together to provide coverage to the whole of Scotland”.

Ministers have been at odds over delivery of broadband, with the UK government earlier this year questioning Scottish Government claims it has met a key target to provide 95 per cent coverage in Scotland of state-of-the-art fibre broadband.

The report also welcomes the actions of both governments to provide broadband coverage to the so-called final 5 per cent, although it questioned whether the proposals go far enough to meet consumers’ needs and the delivery costs.

Committee chairman Pete Wishart said: “Digital connectivity is an essential part of modern life and an indispensable tool for stimulating economic growth.

“Throughout the course of our inquiry, witnesses highlighted the value of reliable, fast broadband and mobile coverage and many members of the public and community groups got in touch to raise the problems they had getting online.

“Scotland’s challenging geography and remote communities make it one of the most difficult places to deliver broadband and mobile coverage in Europe, and while good progress has been made there is still more to do.

“Our report makes recommendations about the way forward and emphasises the importance of both governments working together to make this happen.”

The Scottish Government said figures show that mobile and superfast broadband coverage has dramatically improved in Scotland over recent years.

Welcoming the report, it said it recognises there is more to do and called for more investment by the UK government.

A UK government spokesman said: “We have already invested more than double the funding per head in Scotland than the rest of the UK for superfast broadband, and our Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review being published today sets out our ambitions for digital connectivity, including a nationwide full fibre network by 2033, and how that will be delivered.”