A SWEEPING plan to bring high-speed internet to virtually all of Moray has been slammed by councillors, who have pointed to scores of complaints from the public claiming a substandard service. Members of a Moray Council committee were told that 83 per cent of properties in Moray now have access to high-speed connections, should they sign-up to such a package, with this figure expected to rise to 93 per cent by the end of the year.
However, several councillors dismissed elements of the report, with one elected member saying the public was being “ripped off”. The report to the economic development and infrastructure services committee outlined progress made during phase one of a Scottish Government scheme called Digital Scotland, which in Moray is being operated by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and British Telecom (BT), to improve high-speed coverage. However, problems in communities such as Buckie, Lossiemouth and Rothes were highlighted. One major concern, councillors claimed, was that customers being sold BT Infinity Broadband packages were not able to receive the advertised speeds.
Buckie councillor Gordon McDonald said he switched to high-speed broadband “and noticed no difference whatsoever”.
“My concern is we have great-looking figures but nobody is saying what the definition of high-speed broadband is,” he said.
“In the Buckie area, people are signing up to high-speed broadband but then they convert back because it is too slow.
“I would be astonished if the percentage is anything like it says here. It s not delivering high-speed broadband and that s my concern.”
The SNP councillor said a large amount of taxpayer money was being spent on the roll-out of the scheme, and a better service must be provided.
“We are being ripped off,” he added. Fellow Buckie councillor Sonya Warren (SNP) said she attended a meeting in the town, relating to high-speed internet coverage, which was attended by more than 100 people.
“Everyone is relying on BT …. but BT do not comply with what they are actually saying,” she said. “They will take orders but can t fulfil them, and people are having to spend time without any broadband because it doesn t work.”
Committee chairman Councillor John Cowe (Independent) described high-speed internet as just as important as electricity and running water for some people and businesses. “But they (BT) are accepting business for BT Infinity knowing they can t provide the service,” he claimed. Councillor Pearl Paul, SNP councillor for Speyside Glenlivet, said similar problems were being encountered in Speyside. “A number of people in Rothes are complaining how slow it is,” she said.
“There s all these ups and downs and the problems are happening quite regularly. They (customers) have been contacting BT but been getting nowhere fast.
“It s a shame because everybody was so upbeat when we learned we were getting high-speed broadband but we haven t. In fact, it s extremely slow.”
Councillor Allan Wright (Conservative for Heldon and Laich) described the situation as “fairly critical”.
“I remember all the bell ringing that went on when Buckie was first to get high-speed broadband but it clearly hasn t happened,” he said.
“One person told me he had high-speed broadband until his neighbour switched his on. Within an hour he was worse off than before he got high-speed broadband.”
Councillor Wright also drew attention to mobile phone connections. “It may not be as important for the business community but for the average user, mobile connectivity still leaves a lot to be desired,” he added. Rhona Gunn, the council s corporate director of economic development, infrastructure and planning, said it would be important to get a “Moray-wide picture”, so that the issue can be taken up with both BT and HIE. Councillor Cowe said the committee should write to HIE, stating their concerns over the assertion that 93 per cent of Moray will be covered by high-speed internet by the end of the year. “They might be covered, but the service itself isn t there,” said.
A BT spokesman told The Northern Scot: “Around 77 per cent of homes and businesses in Moray can get speeds in excess of 24Mbs, according to the leading independent website Thinkbroadband.
“We are on track with the Digital Scotland programme and BT s own commercial deployment to reach around 93 per cent coverage in Moray by the end of 2016. Further details can be found at www.hie.co.uk/digital.
“Customers can only be sold BT Infinity if they can get speeds in excess of 15Mbs. If there is no material benefit to customers, service providers will advise of the options available.”
Stuart Robertson, director of digital for for HIE, added: “So far, the new fibre network can reach 83 per cent of Moray premises and we do expect to reach more than nine out of 10 premises by the end of this year. Latest independent figures indicate that more than 75 per cent of Moray premises could now access download speeds of more than 30 Mbps and more than 85 per cent are above 10 Mbps.”
Mr Robertson said the creation of the fibre optic network in the area will have “significant long-term benefits” for Moray.
“It provides capacity previously unavailable and helps future proof the network the infrastructure will support future technology growth.
“It opens up fibre-based broadband services to many homes and businesses; it also helps with additional provision including dedicated business services; and it provides the capacity needed by mobile operators to provide data services.
“In terms of speed for individual customers, internet service providers should be able to provide information about expected services. There are current technological constraints.
“The speed of service any customer gets is dependent on their distance from the fibre cabinet. Some people connected may be just too far away to benefit. As was the case with ADSL copper broadband services, this may improve as technology improves.”
As a rule of thumb, Mr Robertson said that if copper wiring from the cabinet to the customer s home is 1km or less they are likely to see up to superfast speeds of 24 Mbps and more. If they are up to 2kms away speeds should still be quick, she said, but after that distance they fall away quite sharply.
“There are parts of Moray, including the centre of Buckie, where copper-based broadband is very good, reaching 20 Mbps download. “However, even here, a customer moving to fibre could see a much improved upload speed which is unavailable through ADSL.
The availability opens up options for the customer they can choose which provides the best service and price.
“Speed at home can be tricky to assess as there a variety of things that can affect performance the kit someone is using or if they are checking the speed of their wifi which is never the same as the actual hard wired speed to the router.
That is why we refer people to their internet service provider in the first instance as they can identify if it s a line problem or an internal problem.”
The Deputy Presiding Officer (Mr Murray Tosh): The next item of business is stage 3 consideration of the Budget (Scotland) (No 4) Bill.
Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): After the humour of McCabe comes the harsh reality of the numbers in the bill. In fact, I find numbers desperately exciting. The discovery in recent times of the 39th Mersenne prime which is 213,466,917 -1, a number of 4 million digits is exciting beyond belief.
I am sure that members share that excitement. I am afraid that, as members would expect, I will refer to fisheries. I note that in the coming year we will see a reduction in expenditure from 67.8 million to 48.2 million, according to the budget documents. Perhaps that explains why, in the answer to my colleague Richard Lochhead’s question S1W-33536 on where the 50 million for the fishing industry was coming from, the Executive had to say and I paraphrase that it is not possible to tell at this stage what will deliver the resources required.
The Executive has to examine how it is funding its spending commitments. We will have no more talk about uncosted spending commitments from the SNP. I will make a brief comment about the small business rates relief. One of my constituents has a retail outlet that is in two premises on opposite sides of the street.
It is a small business but, because there are two premises, it does not qualify as such. I refer to page 16 of the budget documents. I ask the minister whether, in calculating the percentage payments that are being made in the agriculture budget, the Executive is excluding claims that are being made and rejected because of the inefficiencies of the British Cattle Movement Service. It is easy to achieve objectives in completing the making of payments if we reject large numbers of claims through administrative inefficiencies. I have a little question about pensions the minister had better have several pens.
One of the first things that Gordon Brown did when Labour came to power in 1997 was to change the tax position of pension funds. That has taken some 31 billion out of pension funds, which is roughly equivalent to the current shortfall in the funds. On page 23 of the budget documents, we see a sudden uplift in pension outgoings, which more than double under a heading on that page.
I ask the minister what is going on there. Rural transport is a matter of considerable interest in my constituency. The budget for rural transport measures in the coming year will rise from 5.9 million to 6.3 million. That is good, but it does not sound like an awful lot of money.
I see that reflected in my area. When I get the bus from Aberdeen to Peterhead, the journey of 34 miles costs me 4. The village of Whitehills, where I have stayed since being elected, is but 3 miles from Banff and the return bus fare is roughly the same.
Therefore, a journey of 6 miles in a very rural part of my constituency costs much the same as a journey of 34 miles elsewhere. We have heard today that Gaelic is on the downturn. On page 110 of the budget documents, we see a standstill budget for Gaelic education of 2.8 million. On page 121, we see a standstill in grants.
On page 112, we see a 5 per cent uplift in the number of users of Gaelic education, despite a standstill budget. It would be interesting to hear the minister explain that. Maureen Macmillan (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): Is the member aware that Gaelic education has not taken a downturn? The downturn seems to have come about because of older people no longer being with us.
In the younger generation, there is a big increase in the use of Gaelic. Stewart Stevenson: I thank Maureen Macmillan for making my point for me. Given that the census shows that the overall number of Gaelic speakers is dropping a matter that I very much regret it seems perverse that the budget to help to develop the next generation of Gaelic speakers is at a standstill, although even within that there seem to be conflicts. In my intervention on the minister about broadband in the Highlands and Islands, I was making the point that availability of access will, according to the budget documents, remain at 30 per cent next year. Of course advertising will increase the uptake, which is good news.
However, given that the Welsh Executive has found 115 million to create a level playing field for business use of broadband it is subsidising the use of satellite broadband in areas of Wales where cable broadband cannot be provided, so that the cost of satellite broadband is the same as the cost of ADSL connections, which cable provides it is disappointing that we are far short of that. Rhoda Grant (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): I have a point of information for Stewart Stevenson. Highlands and Islands Enterprise provides funding to allow businesses to access broadband on satellite. That has been a successful programme in the Highlands. Stewart Stevenson: Indeed it has been.
The rest of Scotland in particular, my part of Scotland has no access whatever to broadband. It is interesting that even parts of Edinburgh do not have such access. The point is that, in spite of “A Smart, Successful Scotland”, there has been no uplift in the Highlands and Islands. The Deputy Presiding Officer: You are over time now. Stewart Stevenson: So I am.
I must put my glasses on. I was using Tom McCabe’s time. To close, I will latch on to a point that is mentioned on page 180 of the budget documents. Earlier today, some observations were made on dental practice.
I note that the income from charges that are collected by dental practitioners is expected to fall in the coming year.
Does that mean that national health service dentistry will be less prevalent in the coming year?
Fetlar is one of the North Isles of Shetland, Scotland, with a usually resident population of 61 at the time of the 2011 census. Its main settlement is Houbie on the south coast, home to the Fetlar Interpretive Centre.
Fetlar is the fourth largest island of Shetland and has an area of just over 4,000 hectares (15 ‘ sq ‘ mi).
One of the strange features of Fetlar is a huge wall that goes across the island known as the Funzie Girt or Finnigirt Dyke. It is thought to date from the Mesolithic period. So sharp was the division between the two halves of the island, that the Norse talked of East and West Isle separately.
Another attraction on the island is the Gothic Brough Lodge, built by Arthur Nicolson in about 1820, and which is undergoing restoration by the Brough Lodge Trust.
The Fetlar sheepdog trials take place annually, normally in July. The Fetlar Foy is very popular with Shetlanders and tourists alike. It takes place at midsummer on the Links at Tresta where folk are entertained with music, food and drink.
Its most famous son was Sir William Watson Cheyne Bt FRS FRCS, a close associate of Lord Lister and one of the pioneers of antiseptics.
He was professor of surgery at King’s College London, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and wrote many books on medical treatments. He was made a baronet for services to medicine in 1908, was an MP first for the Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews and then the Combined Scottish Universities in 1917 and 1918. He was Lord Lieutenant of the Shetland Islands from 1919 to 1930.
Cheyne died on Fetlar on 19 April 1932.
Fishing and shipwrecks
Fetlar has a long tradition of fishing. An unusual result of this is that according to Guinness World Records the record for the oldest message in a bottle was broken in August 2012 when a drift bottle released in June 1914 was found by Andrew Leaper, skipper of the Copious, coincidentally the same fishing vessel involved in the previous record recovery in 2006. The bottle, and Mr Leaper’s World Record certificate, have been donated to the Fetlar Interpretative Centre.
Fetlar also has an international selection of shipwrecks including Danish, Dutch, German, English and Soviet vessels.
Geography and geology
Fetlar has a very complex geology, including gneiss in the west, metamorphosed gabbro and phyllite, and kaolin. There is also antigorite and steatite here. Talc was mined here.
Fetlar is surrounded by a number of small islands, particularly in the sound between it and Unst.
These include to the north: Daaey; Haaf Gruney; Sound Gruney; Urie Lingey and Uyea and to the west: Hascosay and Linga
It is separated from Hascosay and Yell by Colgrave Sound. Much further to the south are the Out Skerries and Whalsay.
There are three island names in Shetland of unknown and possibly pre-Celtic origin: Fetlar, Unst and Yell. The earliest recorded forms of these three names do carry Norse meanings: Fetlar is the plural of fetill and means “shoulder-straps” Omstr is “corn-stack” and la is from l meaning “deep furrow”.
However these descriptions are hardly obvious ones as island names and are probably adaptations of a pre-Norse language. This may have been Pictish but there is no clear evidence for this. Haswell-Smith suggests a meaning of “prosperous land” and that the island’s name may mean “two islands strapped together” by the Funzie Girt.
It was recorded as “F til r” in 1490.
Fetlar’s wildlife is as varied as its geology. For example, over two hundred species of wild flower have been identified here.
The northern part of Fetlar is a RSPB reserve, home to several important breeding species including Arctic skuas and whimbrels. The Lamb Hoga peninsula and nearby Haaf Gruney have some of the largest colonies of storm petrel.
Of greatest importance though are red-necked phalaropes, for which the Loch of Funzie is the most important breeding site in the United Kingdom, and for a while during the 1990s was the only breeding site in the country. A pair of snowy owls famously bred here in the 1960s and early 1970s, they lasted until the 1980s but are no longer present. The island is known as “The Garden of Shetland,” due to its highly fertile soil.
Ferries sail daily from Hamars Ness on Fetlar to Gutcher on Yell and Belmont on Unst.
A new breakwater and berthing facility is being added at Hamars Ness and was officially opened on 1 December 2012.
There is a communications tower on Fetlar at: 60 ‘ 36’5.39″N, 0 ‘ 55’35.44″W. Fetlar is “Under Evaluation” for superfast broadband according to Digital Scotland.
Fetlar Developments Ltd (FDL), a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity, was set up by the community to counter the depopulation of the island, which had fallen to just 48 in early 2009, when the 2001 total had been 86. The development company continue to work towards securing a sustainable future for the island both socially and economically.
Currently there are 7 primary pupils and 2 nursery pupils at Fetlar primary school, situated at Baela near Houbie.
- ^ Anderson (1873) preface
- ^ ab Area and population ranks: there are c.
300 islands >20ha in extent and 93 permanently inhabited islands were listed in the 2011 census.
- ^ abc National Records of Scotland (15 August 2013) (pdf) Statistical Bulletin: 2011 Census: First Results on Population and Household Estimates for Scotland – Release 1C (Part Two). “Appendix 2: Population and households on Scotland s inhabited islands”. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
- ^ abcdefgh Haswell-Smith (2004) pp.
- ^ Ordnance Survey. Get-a-map (Map).
Ordinance Survey. Retrieved 21 August 2013.‘
- ^ “Finnigirt Dyke” fetlar.com. Retrieved 1 May 2008
- ^ “Brough Lodge Trust” fetlar.com.
Retrieved 30 April 2008.
- ^ “10th Anniversary Fetlar Foy” johnsmasfoy.com. Retrieved 2 June 2008.
- ^ “World record as message in bottle found after 98 years near Shetland” BBC News. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
- ^ Gammeltoft (2010) p.
- ^ Gammeltoft (2010) pp.
- ^ Gammeltoft (2010) p.
- ^ “Norn” Shetlopedia. Retrieved 23 Jan 2011.
- ^ ab Haswell-Smith (2004) p.
- ^ “Fetlar Museum” fetlar.com. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
- ^ “Fetlar: The Garden of Shetland” fetlar.org.
Retrieved 28 Jan 2011.
- ^ http://www.digitalscotland.org/superfast-broadband/the-programme/
- ^ General Register Office for Scotland (28 November 2003) Scotland’s Census 2001 ” Occasional Paper No 10: Statistics for Inhabited Islands. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
- ^ Fetlar Primary School. “News Page”. Retrieved 28 November 2009. ‘
- Anderson, Joseph (ed.) (1873) The Orkneyinga Saga.
Translated by J n A. Hjaltalin & Gilbert Goudie. Edinburgh.
Edmonston and Douglas. The Internet Archive. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
- Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands.
ISBN ‘ 978-1-84195-454-7.‘
- Gammeltoft, Peder (2010) “Shetland and Orkney Island-Names ” A Dynamic Group”. Northern Lights, Northern Words.
Selected Papers from the FRLSU Conference, Kirkwall 2009, edited by Robert McColl Millar.