There is no doubt that digital is the way forward and we relish the challenge to put Scotland at the forefront of the digital revolution and make world-class digital infrastructure a reality.
That’s why, I am able pleased to be able to announce further investment of £120 million for superfast broadband in the Highlands and Islands.
I think everybody at the Convention, and everybody in the Highlands and Islands, recognises the importance of access to superfast broadband, not just for the future of our local economies, but indeed for the future of our children, for our education, our health and every aspect of life in the modern world.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise are making substantial progress and this project will deliver superfast broadband into 50 communities in the Highlands. Connectivity improvements will be expected early next year. But our ambition, and our intention, is to have access to superfast broadband throughout the Highlands and Islands be it for every individual or every business in the area within the next few years. This funding means HIE will be able to take forward laying underground cables and in some cases, sub-sea cables to connect island communities.
Nationally, we’ve set a target, by 2015 of making sure 85 to 90 per cent of Scotland has access to speeds of up to 40 to 80 megabytes per second, and that the other 10 to 15 per cent of people have access to far faster speeds then they have today.
I’ve given a very clear indication that in the roll out of superfast broadband in Scotland, the rural areas and the island communities will not be left at the tail end of this process. We’ve seen that return, in terms of investment in these areas, is actually far higher than it is in some of our urban areas in Scotland. My view is that these areas deserve the kind of priority needed to bring them in to this new digital revolution.
Although substantial funding, this £120 million is just the start. With investment from local government and the private sector, we can we can continue to increase economic growth, create jobs and bring communities closer together.
This is a brilliant announcement and I hope that the Highlands and Islands will now be able to get ahead, get superfast broadband, and make the Highlands and Islands everything it can be in the future.
More information on Scotland’s Digital Future: Infrastructure Action Plan can be found at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/01/1487