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Bitter row between Highland politicians over delay in delivering superfast broadband to the north


By Scott Maclennan

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MSP Edward Mountain speaking in Holyrood.
MSP Edward Mountain speaking in Holyrood.

Highland MSP Edward Mountain has told fellow a north politician “you can’t blame someone else if you don’t deliver” amid an angry row over the failure to deliver superfast broadband in the north.

The exchange was sparked after Mr Mountain criticised First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s government agendaas not helping the Highlands, particularly the R100 broadband programme which will not be ready on time in 2021 as promised.

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey MP Drew Hendry took exception to the remarks and hit back accusing Mr Mountain of scoring “cheap political points” and said inaction by Westminster forced the Scottish Government to take over the scheme.

Now Mr Mountain has retaliated and told the MP that the SNP only have themselves to blame for not delivering on a manifesto promise to reach 100 per cent of homes and businesses in the north by 2021.

The scheme has been mired by delays, including a court case over the contract award process, leaving Mr Mountain in no doubt it will not be completed until “at least 2026 or 2027, five years later than we were promised.”

Responding to Mr Hendry, conservative MSP Mr Mountain said: “As Drew Hendry knows, the SNP announced R100 as part of their 2016 election campaign and promised to connect all premises to superfast broadband by 2021.

“This was an SNP promise and Fergus Ewing MSP even pledged to resign if R100 wasn’t delivered by 2021," he said.

“However, if you don’t try to award a contract before 2019, then it is very clear that R100 won’t be delivered by 2021. Highlanders may be left waiting until at least 2026 or 2027, five years later than we were promised.

“So the bottom line is this, if you promise something you can’t blame someone else if you don’t deliver and I am happy to help Fergus write his resignation speech too.”

MP Drew Hendry speaking during PMQs.
MP Drew Hendry speaking during PMQs.

Earlier, Mr Hendry said: “Mr Mountain would do well to remember that digital infrastructure is reserved to Westminster.

"The Scottish Government has had to step in to bring Superfast broadband to all parts of Scotland, unlocking previously blocked potential because we can simply not wait around for the UK government to do its job.

“I suggest rather than trying making cheap political points, Mr Mountain put his time to working with others to find practical solutions that will work for Highland families.”

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