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Call for Orkney to be at the front of broadband roll-out queue

Just 65 per cent of Orkney is covered by high-speed broadband.

Calls have been made for the Scottish Government to prioritise Orkney when it comes to rolling out high-speed broadband.

The Scottish Government’s commitment to providing high speed broadband to every household in Scotland by 2021 appears unlikely to meet its deadline amid further reports that the so-called R100 programme is behind schedule.

Cabinet secretary Michael Matheson recently told Holyrood ministers that coverage rates in Orkney currently stands at 65 per cent compared to a national figure of 93 per cent.

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur says that when it comes to the roll-out of high-speed broadband, Orkney should be among those at the front of the queue.

Mr McArthur was scathing in his assessment of Mr Matheson’s approach to the roll-out, suggesting that the cabinet secretary, who represents Falkirk West, was out of touch with the problems those in the Highlands and Islands have to contend with as a result of slow broadband speeds.

“The commitment to deliver high speed broadband to 100 per cent of premises by 2021 is welcome but it is now abundantly clear that this deadline will not be met. Indeed, Ministers have stopped even referring to the deadline,” Mr McArthur said.

“It is all the more important, therefore, that priority is given to connecting those communities who have been waiting longest for any sort of service. Good quality, affordable broadband is increasingly critical in accessing services, allowing businesses to compete and enable people to go about their daily lives.”

The Orkney MSP added: “Mr Matheson seems happy that Orkney continues to languish significantly behind the level of coverage achieved nationally. As an MSP representing a central belt constituency, perhaps Mr Matheson believes this is just the ‘price you pay’ for living in an island or rural area.

“Whatever the reason, it is unacceptable, the Scottish Government needs to re-commit to prioritising future broadband investment in Orkney and other communities who continue to lag behind when it comes to coverage.”

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