South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth has called for the South of Scotland to be used as a 5G pilot area.
Colin Smyth made the call during a debate yesterday (20th November) in the Scottish Parliament in a debate on ‘Developing Scotland’s Digital Industries for our Economic Use’ in which the local MSP urged the Scottish Government to support proposals in the Borderlands Growth Deal proposals aimed at increasing the digital capabilities for the Borderlands Area. As well as the 5G pilot scheme, the Borderlands proposal includes seeking funding to complete the roll-out of superfast broadband to properties that currently don’t have it, extending current 4G coverage across the region and developing transformational hyperfast digital infrastructure in key settlements and employment sites to enable internet speeds of 1Gbps.
Colin Smyth believes that by investing in the digital capabilities of rural areas like the South of Scotland it would allow local businesses to have a competitive advantage in rural areas rather than always having to ‘catch-up’ with urban areas.
During the debate Colin Smyth told Parliament, “A key component of the Borderlands Growth Deal is the aim of breaking down the digital divide through the digital borderlands plan. That plan seeks investment to complete the roll-out of superfast broadband to the properties that do not yet have it, to extend 4G coverage further into remote areas and, crucially, to develop transformational hyperfast digital infrastructure in key settlements and employment sites, enabling speeds of 1Gbps. In addition, the plan includes proposals to pilot emergent 5G technology and develop digital skills in the borderlands—an area that suffers a chronic shortage of such skills.
Government funding for that type of outside-in approach, which prioritises rural areas for future investment, would give communities that are currently disadvantaged, such as those of the borderlands, a technological and economic advantage that they have previously been denied. Support for the borderlands growth deal would represent digital inclusion in action. It would help to deliver the inclusive growth that the Government talks about but that is far out of reach for too many of our rural communities.”
Speaking after the debate Colin Smyth MSP said, “Too often rural communities are left behind when it comes to investment in technology and digital capabilities. We all get frustrated at the loss of signal experienced when out and about across our region. The loss of signal symbolises the digital divide between urban and rural areas in Scotland that hinder businesses and economic growth here.
The Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal proposals aim to break down divide and really boost the digital capabilities for communities and businesses in Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders. I used my speech to urge the Scottish Government to give its support to the Borderlands Deal and start funding these projects that will make a vital difference.
However, more importantly more needs to be done to give a competitive advantage to rural communities and business both now and in the future. That is why both the UK and Scottish Government ensure the South of Scotland is included in piloting emerging 5G technologies and help local authorities, communities and businesses to build the skills and capabilities required. In turn that would create a huge competitive advantage for South Scotland and help unlock economic growth.”