Digital budget criticism

MSP Peter Chapman has criticised cuts to the digital budget
MSP Peter Chapman has criticised cuts to the digital budget

A North East MSP has challenged the Scottish Government over cuts to the digital connectivity budget at a time when businesses and residents are struggling with poor broadband coverage.

Scottish Conservative Peter Chapman asked Rural Economy and Connectivity Secretary Fergus Ewing about the reduction from £136m to £58.5m in this year’s budget.

Mr Chapman said the drop in funding will impact on rural premises in the North-east, many of which do not have access to superfast connections.

The recent Connection Nations 2017 report by Ofcom suggested that, outwith remote areas of Scotland, Aberdeenshire has the lowest rural download speeds in the country.

Mr Chapman said: “I welcome the £600m that has been promised for the R100 programme, which will be spent in 2019 to 2021, but I find it exceptionally disappointing that the budget for digital connectivity this year has been slashed from £136m to £58.5m.

“Obviously, that will impact on rural premises in North-east Scotland, where people desperately need a decent broadband speed now.

“How can the cabinet secretary justify slashing this year’s budget when so much remains to be done?”

In his response, Mr Ewing attacked the UK Government for its contribution to the R100 programme.