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Scottish gov moans over broadband cash handout

Gie us mair bawbees, oor internet's aye puggled

The Scottish government isn't happy about the trifling amount of cash UK.gov's culture secretary splashed on the rollout of broadband in that country yesterday.

Jeremy Hunt allocated £68.8m to Scotland from the £530m pot set aside as part of his ambitious plans to gift the UK with the fastest broadband network in Europe by 2015.

But the Tory MP's fibre-tastic future plan for Blighty was lambasted yesterday by Scotland's cabinet secretary for infrastructure and capital investment, Alex Neil.

"I am disappointed with the allocation from the UK government towards the Scottish government's ambition for rollout of next generation broadband across the whole of Scotland," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

He said the Scottish government, in line with Hunt's expectation that local authorities and the private sector would match the funding, would do its bit to invest in the rollout of broadband to more homes and businesses in the region.

"However, this announcement from the UK government has fallen short of the expectations of the Scottish economy to the overall costs of broadband rollout in the remote and rural parts of Scotland," said Neil.

"For instance the cost to deliver next generation broadband across the Highlands and Islands alone has been estimated at up to £300m, therefore we do not regard the UK government's allocation as a realistic contribution to meet Scotland's broadband requirements."

He then went on to add that people living in Scotland deserved the same access to high speed broadband connections as those citizens residing in the rest of the UK.

Neil also appeared confused about the remaining funds in the £530m broadband pot.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport confirmed to The Register yesterday that £430m had been handed over to authorities across Britain so far.

However, some of the final £100m from the £530m pot has been given to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which is tasked with allocating cash in the remaining hard-to-reach parts of the UK.

The DCMS added that part of the £100m figure had been set aside specifically as a "contingency fund".

So there really is little or no cash left from the existing funds allocated by UK.gov, following a BBC licence fee settlement.

The Scottish government might get something from Defra, but even if that happens it is likely there will be a broadband funding gap in the country.

Neil said he was writing to Hunt in an effort to "secure a better deal for Scotland".

As we noted yesterday, a further £300m has been earmarked for broadband rollout across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, that cash won't be skimmed off the licence fee settlement during this Parliament. And no decision has yet been made about how that money will be spent.

Meanwhile, Hollywood A-lister Brad Pitt is currently in Glasgow to film scenes for his new movie about a zombie apocalypse called World War Z. Presumably he'll try his best not to grumble about the slow broadband connections in the city... ®

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