Nicola Sturgeon should stop ‘getting shouty on Twitter’ over broadband – UK Minister
Millions of pounds are to be handed directly to Scottish councils for a new roll-out of fibre broadband because the UK Government is “fed up” with the SNP’s “poor performance”, the UK’s Digital Minister has said. Matthew Hancock told the Telegraph that Scotland is lagging behind the rest of the UK for superfast broadband because the Scottish Government has been “sitting on UK taxpayers’ cash since 2014.”
Hancock said English councils had performed better because they “have got on with delivering instead of playing politics with independence” and he will use a visit to Scotland on Monday to try and get the SNP administration “up to speed.” He said that while Scotland had yet to sign the contracts for the second phase of the broadband rollout, local authorities in England are already planning for the third phase.
Hancock said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon should stop “getting shouty on Twitter” and insisted the Scottish Government was “three years behind” the rest of the country. Following an announcement by the Chancellor in this week’s Budget, he said Scottish councils will be able to bid directly for funding from a new £190m programme to speed up the roll-out of full 5G fibre networks.
The minister said: “The Scottish Government are three years behind and have been sitting on UK taxpayers’ cash since 2014 when they should have been delivering for people in Scotland.” He said time would tell whether the it would reach the 95% target by the end of year, with Scotland sitting on 92 per cent and the rest of the UK on 94%.
But Hancock added: “For the full fibre roll out we’re going directly to local authorities because we’re fed up with the Scottish Government’s poor performance. It has been done much more successfully by local authorities in England.” He will highlight the new local authority scheme during visits on Monday to Stirling, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk seat of John Lamont, one of the new Scottish Tory MPs.
The minister will also meet Fergus Ewing, the SNP’s Rural Economy Minister, to discuss how phase two of the superfast broadband roll-out could be speeded up in Scotland. In response to Hancock’s attack, Ewing said: “Any assertion that Scotland is behind the rest of the UK is completely untrue. This has been recognised by Ofcom and by independent analysts such as ThinkBroadband.
“As a direct result of our investment, more than 800,000 premises now have access to fibre broadband, while we are on track to deliver 95% coverage by the end of this year.”