Responding to a Scottish Government announcement that the procurement timeline for the Reaching 100% Broadband programme will be extended, Scottish Labour Rural Economy Spokesperson Rhoda Grant said:
“Many of these delays have been avoidable. The Scottish Government have had ample time to plan, but have sat on their hands and blamed the UK Government – so with the addition of these delays, many people across the country are likely to be left behind for too long.
“I hope that the announcement from Ofcom that everyone will have a legal right to a decent connection from March 2020 is adding much needed extra pressure onto the Government.
“In remote rural areas, digital connectivity is vital to a decent quality of life. Any delay to providing superfast broadband to 100% of the population means leaving people behind. The Scottish Government should stop hiding behind the detail and come clean.”
Government Initiated Question:
7 June 2019
Index Heading: Organisational Development and Operations
Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (Scottish National Party): 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.