The Scottish Conservatives have condemned the SNP’s latest delays to the delivery of superfast broadband to Scotland.
R100, or the Reaching 100% programme, is the SNP’s pledge to roll out super-fast broadband to 100% of Scotland’s inhabitants by 2021.
In a written answer to the Scottish Parliament, the SNP has today admitted there have been unexpected delays and they won’t even sign a contract to deliver this flagship policy until the end of 2019.
This leaves an impossibly short time for the Scottish Government to achieve their promise.
A year ago Fergus Ewing, the rural economy secretary was so sure that this would be achieved he famously said he’d resign if the Scottish government didn’t deliver it on time.
The Scottish Conservatives have therefore criticised the SNP government for leaving Scotland’s rural communities at a significant disadvantage.
Jamie Greene, Scottish Conservative connectivity spokesman 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 rollout superfast broadband, but then overpromised and under delivered, leaving our remote and rural communities at a significant disadvantage.
“In an attempt to outmanoeuvre Westminster the SNP Government ended up outmanoeuvring itself; whilst superfast broadband is being rolled out to communities in England and Wales, people in Scotland are being left behind.”
Notes to editors:
Fergus Ewing has put on record that he would resign if the r100 hadn’t been delivered by 2021 – https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2018/05/scotlands-rural-minister-to-quit-if-r100-broadband-target-missed.html
Stewart Stevenson; To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the procurement for the Reaching 100% programme.
Paul Wheelhouse: We are determined that R100 programme delivers the best possible value and benefit for Scotland and have designed a procurement process to achieve this. Key to doing so is to ensure a highly competitive process that results in the £600 million funding for this programme delivering on our commitment to provide access to superfast broadband to every home and business in Scotland.
The procurement has therefore been structured, following internal and external advice and statutory and regulatory requirements, with defined dialogue cycles and submission dates. An Invitation to Participate in Dialogue was issued last Spring which resulted in four bidders being short-listed. Following the initial round of dialogue, a request for an extension of six weeks was granted to enable bidders to prepare initial submissions. Subsequently, a complaint was lodged, by one of the bidders, with the National Competency Centre, (managed by the UK Government as State Aid leads) citing a breach of the Code of Conduct by another bidder. This was resolved satisfactorily but resulted in a necessary pause in the procurement with a corresponding six week delay.
Ahead of the next key milestone we were required to provide a revised intervention area (listing all eligible premises). This update was necessary to allow the final stages of dialogue to be based on the most up-to-date picture, taking into consideration commercial coverage plans and changes to planned Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) deployment. Additional premises were added back into the R100 intervention area, in part due to direction from UK Ministers that future Gainshare activity be focused on full fibre solutions. This resulted in greater than expected changes across the country; and bidders requested extensions to enable them to remain in the process and provide competitive bids. 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.