National islands plan: annual report - 2020

The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 requires that a report is presented to Parliament each year setting out the progress made towards delivery of the National Islands Plan. The National Islands Plan annual report 2020 is the first of these reports.

Digital Connectivity

Strategic Objective 6 - To improve digital connectivity

We committed to deliver a step change in the quality of digital connectivity across the islands.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

Through the Reaching 100% (R100) programme, Scottish Government will ensure that every home and business can access superfast broadband. This is being delivered through the £600 million R100 contracts, our Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme (SBVS) as well as continued commercial deployment.

The Scottish Government will invest £384 million in the R100 North lot contract which covers the majority of Scotland's inhabited islands. This contract was signed with BT in December 2020, following a legal challenege to procurement. As was the case with the earlier commencement of the Central and South contracts of the R100 programme, the Scottish Government will provide BT with an updated intervention area (the list of addresses eligible for public sector subsidy) which we have recently consulted upon. BT will update their implementation plan based on the new intervention area, which takes into account changes to commercial deployment plans. Our online address checker will be updated in stages to reflect these roll-out plans where these have changed since the North lot was tendered as they are confirmed, with a full picture across the North contract area expected by the summer.

16 new subsea cables will be delivered through the North lot contract providing gigabit capable, future-proofed, resilient connectivity for those islands.

These cables will connect to 15 Scottish islands including Colonsay, Iona, Lismore, Eigg, Eday, Flotta, Hoy, Rousay, Sanday, Shapinsay, Stronsay, Fair Isle, Unst, Whalsey and Yell.

There will also be a cable laid between Sanday and Fair Isle.

We committed to mandate the delivery of gigabit-capable connectivity to selected island locations, through the R100 programme, with many other island communities to benefit once contracts are finalised.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

Through the R100 North lot contract, delivery of gigabit capable infrastructure was mandated in South Mull, Uig/Timsgarry, Sanday, Stronsay, Yell and Unst. The R100 contract will deliver 16 new subsea cables, building on those already delivered through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) programme, providing future-proofed gigabit capable connectivity to those islands. The R100 contracts, alongside our SBVS will ensure that anyone who requires a superfast broadband connection by the end of 2021 can have one.

We committed to call on the UK Government to prioritise early investment in Scotland's islands as part of their plans for full fibre roll-out by 2025.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

Scottish Government officials have met with United Kingdom Government (UKG) counterparts on a number of occasions with regards to their gigabit plans and to seek agreement that Scotland will be prioritised. The UKG has indicated that £1.2 billion will be made available across the UK to deliver their gigabit ambitions by 2025; initially £5 billion had been committed alongside a universal gigabit coverage by 2025, but this has now been scaled back by 85% coverage and only £1.2 billion is available for the period up to 2025. We are continuing to engage with Uk Ministers on options for the deployment of some of this funding to augument or own investment. We therefore continue to work with UKG to ensure Scotland sees its fair share of this investment and will endeavour, through various work streams, to identify investment opportunities across Scotland, including Scotland's islands.

We committed to call on Ofcom to address the issues faced by island communities when designing telecoms regulation and policy. We also committed to convene a meeting with Ofcom and island representatives to explore how regulatory levers (such as spectrum auctions) could improve both mobile and broadband coverage on the islands and ensure that the needs of islands are represented to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in UK national policy development.

Work has yet to be progressed in relation to this commitment.

However, it is expected to progress in 2021.

Through the Scotland 5G Centre, building on the 5G RuralFirst trials currently taking place on Orkney, and working with partners including Ofcom, we committed to develop rural 5G use cases to address the rural digital divide using 5G technology.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

Led by the University of Strathclyde, the Rural Testbed project is delivering a 5G testbed in two locations (Orkney and Loch Lomond), and is backed with £1.9 million funding from the Scotland 5G Centre. In the first quarter of 2021, fibre backhaul will be deployed at the key site of Westray to support the testbed (expected to connect a number of locations across Orkney) and its associated key use cases of 5G fixed wireless access, IoT (internet of things), energy, and mobile/roaming access.

We committed to work with local resilience partnerships and telecoms providers to encourage them to focus on resilience of data links to and from the islands.

Work has yet to be progressed in relation to this commitment.

Work is planned for 2021/22 to ensure progress is made towards this commitment.

We committed to develop a digital skills programme designed by island communities to meet their needs.

Work has yet to be progressed in relation to this commitment.

Scottish Government's Islands Officials will be exploring how we might build on the learning from previous work, such as the £1 million Digital Start Fund that was launched in May 2019, to develop a digital skills programme designed by island communities to meet their needs in 2021/22.

The Digital Start Fund is an inclusive growth policy which aims to assist those on low incomes or in receipt of benefits to gain digital qualifications and enter the labour market. A number of providers have been awarded funding to support those living in rural areas through this, including the University of Highlands and Islands to deliver cyber, data and software development courses jointly with ScotlandIS, and to North Highland College to deliver cyber training.

We committed to extend the availability of coding clubs and community-based digital inclusion programmes across the islands.

Work has yet to be progressed in relation to this commitment.

Scottish Government Islands Officials will be exploring the potential for delivering any new clubs and digital inclusion programmes in 2021/22.



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