The SNP slashed almost £50 million from their digital infrastructure budget despite promising to deliver super-fast broadband for all by the end of this year.
A written response received by the Scottish Conservatives shows that funding dropped from £66.2m in 2017-18 to just £27.1m the following year, and then was reduced again to £18 million in 2019-20.
The revelation comes as the SNP have now officially “failed miserably” to deliver on their flagship R100 scheme. The delivery of the Northern part of the programme is now not expected to be completed until 2027.
Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary Rachael Hamilton says it is “astonishing” that SNP ministers decided it was appropriate to cut funding at a time when rural communities were expecting to finally enjoy broadband speeds that were fit for purpose.
She added that it was typical of the SNP to ignore the needs of rural communities, who are now going to be left behind in the pandemic recovery due to poor connectivity.
Scottish Conservative Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary Rachael Hamilton MSP, said: “It is astonishing that the SNP were slashing funding on digital infrastructure at this time. They never tired of talking up their flagship R100 scheme, but they clearly weren’t prepared to back up their words with the investment needed.
“It’s now official that they have failed miserably to deliver on their promise to provide super-fast broadband for all by the end of 2021. Yet again, they are leaving rural communities behind having promised big but under-delivered.
“It is little wonder many rural communities are going to be waiting years for better connectivity with the SNP slashing almost £50 million from their digital infrastructure budget in the space of just a few years.
“Ministers are now trying to make up for lost time, but that is of little comfort to people in rural and remote areas who are desperate to be connected. The SNP’s misguided spending priorities means the recovery in areas like the one I represent is going to take even longer.”
The FOI is available on request.