SNP's Connectivity Secretary too busy to visit the islands

26 June 2017

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, who is Scottish Labour’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Spokesperson, has said she is hugely disappointed to be told that the SNP’s Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity is too busy to visit Grimsay on Uist to hear about the need for improved broadband connectivity in the area.

Mrs Grant was approached by Grimsay Community Association about the lack of broadband connection and was told how this is hampering development and progress in the area. 

The Association suggested it would be helpful if the Cabinet Secretary, Fergus Ewing, would visit the area to see the extent of the problem for himself. 

Given that his government has pledged to have 100% superfast broadband coverage in Scotland by 2021, Mrs Grant felt sure the Cabinet Secretary would take up the offer to visit and to speak to the community to advise what he intends to do to provide them with broadband connections.

Mr Ewing, however, has responded that, “Unfortunately, due to a very busy diary and previous commitments, I am unable to accept your invite at this time, but I will ask Scottish Government officials to keep you and the Community Association updated on when Uist may see an upgrade.”

Rhoda commented,

“These islands have the worst broadband connections in the UK, and indeed amongst the worst in Europe. 

"Depopulation of the islands is occurring and people expect action to prevent this from happening. 

"The community is used to being ignored by their MSP and MP but for the Cabinet Secretary to refuse to visit because he is too busy is just reprehensible.  It is his job to secure the future of rural areas.

 Mrs Grant continued,

“The Cabinet Secretary says their “‘outside in’ approach will prioritise future public investment in the hardest to reach rural areas, while ensuring that our UK partners prioritise rural coverage”. 

"I would say to him that it doesn’t get much more rural or harder to reach than the Western Isles and it would do him good to get himself over to these parts to speak to the business owners who are trying to make ends meet with no broadband availability.”