High speed broadband is key priority

SCOTTISH Borders Council are working in partnership with Dumfries and Galloway Council to try and win the South of Scotland the next generation broadband access that will lift it out of a communications blackspot.

The local authorities are currently preparing a bid which they hope will lead to the south of Scotland getting its share of £530 million of UK government funding to roll out out next generation broadband to rural areas such as Berwickshire, where sub-standard internet access has become a thorn in the side of many communities.

Speaking earlier this week Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead said ensuring access for all to next generation high-speed broadband by 2020 was a key priority for rural Scotland.

He made the comments during a parliamentary debate on Rural Connectivity which highlighted the need for rural Scotland to be included in the digital revolution for high-speed broadband and 4G mobile coverage.

Although several villages in Berwickshire have campaigned successfully over the past few years to get improved broadband access for their homes and businesses, many still feel their service isn’t worth the monthly charges they have to pay for the privilege.

But Mr Lochhead’s announcement, coupled with the co-operative association between SBC, Dumfries and Galloway Council and Scottish Enterprise, to develop a strategic broadband plan for the south of Scotland, suggests that their service will finally be brought up to speed.

The bid team, which also includes representatives from NHS Borders and NHS Dumfries and Galloway, are working towards a late August deadline to have the South of Scotland Plan approved by full council so it can be submitted to the Scottish Government and UK Government in September.

And one person who said he would welcome significant progress sooner rather than later is Berwickshire and Roxburgh MSP John Lamont.

He has thrown his polticial weight behind various broadband campaigns, including one by residents of Abbey St Bathans, and he said although he appreciated that rolling out super fast broadband to areas like Berwickshire wasn’t an easy task, the area couldn’t be left behind any longer.