Willie Rennie MSP, Elon Musk and Minister Richard Lochhead.
By Lucy Ashton
Scottish Liberal Democrat communities spokesperson Willie Rennie MSP has today accused the Scottish Government of hiding behind Elon Musk and refusing to apologise for missing its R100 broadband promise.
In a question to ministers, Willie Rennie asked whether the government will make a public apology for breaking the promise in its 2016 manifesto to ensure that all premises across Scotland had access to superfast broadband by 2021.
In response to a freedom of information request in June, the Scottish Government confirmed that tens of thousands of premises were still to be connected through the R100 contract process. Previous research by the Scottish Liberal Democrats showed that as of last year only 2.7% of premises eligible for the R100 voucher scheme had been connected.
In a written reply to a question from Willie Rennie, small business minister Richard Lochhead pointed to commercial broadband coverage including “newer technologies such as Low Earth Orbit satellite” and said that every property “is able to consider options for superfast broadband.” Low earth orbit satellite broadband connections include Elon Musk’s Starlink.
Mr Rennie said: “The SNP promise was clear: 100% of premises having access by 2021. They missed that deadline and since then they have been desperately back-pedalling and refusing to apologise.
“A reliable internet connection is essential for starting businesses, securing a good education and even attending medical appointments in remote and rural communities. Yet thousands of households and businesses are missing out on the superfast broadband they were promised.
“Now ministers seem to have taken to hiding behind Elon Musk and his satellites to distract from their failure to deliver what they promised.”
- Willie Rennie’s question, which was answered in writing, and the response was as follows.
5 October 2023
Willie Rennie (North East Fife) (Scottish Liberal Democrat Party): To ask the Scottish Government whether it will make a public apology, in light of reports that it did not deliver its policy of 100% coverage of superfast broadband by December 2021.
Richard Lochhead: As outlined earlier this year in response to a similar question from Mr Rennie, our over £600 million investment in the R100 contracts, our R100 Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme and continued commercial coverage – including the emergence of newer technologies such as Low Earth Orbit satellite – means that every property in Scotland is able to consider options for superfast broadband connection today as was the case at the end of 2021, meeting our commitment.