Flagship plans for all Scots to have access to "super-fast" broadband by 2021 are likely to be missed, it has emerged.
The pledge was at the heart of the SNP's 2016 election manifesto but the Scottish Government has revealed that its timetable has been extended to allow "additional premises" to be added into its R100 programme.
A contract won't be signed until the end of the year meaning that the Scotland-wide coverage is unlikely to be in place by 2021.
The revelation will come as a huge blow to rural areas and businesses who have complained of poor broadband speeds for years and say it is holding them back.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing told MSPs last year that he would resign if the programme was not delivered by 2021 and the impending failure came under fire from opposition parties today.
Tory connectivity spokesman Jamie Greene said: “This is a damning revelation that the Scottish Government’s flagship r100 will not be delivered on schedule.
“Far from being nearing completion we are now learning that the contracts won’t even be in place until sometime in 2020.
“The SNP asked the UK Government for the powers and funding to roll-out supe-rfast broadband, but then overpromised and under delivered, leaving our remote and rural communities at a significant disadvantage."
Labour's Rhoda Grant warned Scots will be left behind.
"In remote rural areas, digital connectivity is vital to a decent quality of life. Any delay to providing superfast broadband to 100% of the population means leaving people behind. The Scottish Government should stop hiding behind the detail and come clean.”
Liberal Democrat Mike Rumbles said ministers have had four years to iron-out the details of how it plans to deliver 100% access
He added: "Announcing yet another delay to the bidding process at this stage, with only 30 months of the programme remaining, shows complete incompetence and no appreciation for the thousands of homes that still cannot access even the most basic internet speeds"
The SNP's election manifesto for the 2016 Holyrood election made a flagship pledge on the issue.
"We will deliver 100 per cent superfast broadband coverage for Scotland by the end of the next Parliament," it stated.
The news of the delay emerged in a Holyrood answer provided by energy minister Paul Wheelhouse.
Ministers had been required to provide an updated "intervention area" which would be covered by the broadband pledge, he revealed. and "additional premises" had been added to this.
This meant "greater than expected" changes" across the country and firms seeking to carry out the work sought extensions to adjust their bids.
Wheelhouse added: "We considered these requests carefully and balanced the wish to adhere to our timetable against the risks associated with not allowing bidders more time and our determination to provide the best possible outcome for Scotland.
"We have therefore provided the bidders with the extension sought, giving them more time to remodel their solutions. This will see the procurement timeline extended, with the appointment of a preferred bidder or bidders anticipated by the end of September 2019 with contract signature by the end of the year."