Reference Library – Scotland – Berwickshire Broadband

Unlike the Tories, I’m getting on with day job

As I move closer to the second anniversary of my election, my overarching aim of delivering on issues that matter to the Borders has been at the forefront of my mind. From broadband to benefits, from mobile coverage to farm support, I have relentlessly focused on key issues of vital importance to our region. It’s an honour to have the opportunity to carry forward this work – but sometimes the passions that issues like Brexit or independence give rise to means we overlook welcome progress.

So I utterly refute the notion that my support for independence prevents me from progressing day-to-day work on issues that matter to my constituents. For months now Conservative representatives in our region have campaigned on the constitutional question, organising street stalls and, more recently, hosting public meetings. In contrast, I have focused on a range of matters that will make a difference. Let’s take the past month as an example. Two weeks ago I hosted a meeting in Galashiels with the National Farmers’ Union Scotland president.

We agreed a number of actions to ensure Scotland is able to shape its own agricultural policy after Brexit. I also met with the leadership of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation to co-ordinate putting Scottish fishing interests at the forefront of negotiations to replace the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy. My leadership on digital in Westminster enables constant engagement with the telecoms sector at a national level.

At the start of the month I met with the CEO of EE, Marc Allera, to press the case for better rural coverage in the Borders. I also launched a new investigation that I am leading with the Digital Policy Alliance on UK digital infrastructure. Locally, we’ve progressed the Borders Digital forum, which is now collaborating with the world’s fastest rural broadband provider to solve the urgent problem of poor connectivity. We’re now in talks with several communities to launch pilot schemes over the coming year. Then there’s Drivewise, currently being spearheaded by Borders police and local hero John Cleland.

We managed to scale up this project alongside Transport Scotland and the Institute of Advance Motorists. As a result, this year teens in the Borders have become the first in the country to get expert driving lessons in school. I was proud to be able to share this work with parliament during a debate last week. Most importantly of all, my office has dealt with hundreds of cases from constituents who need help on everything from benefits to visa applications.

Of course, there’s always more to be done. But just as I’m prepared to work with people of all political persuasions to get results for the Borders, I’d ask those who disagree with me on the constitution to overlook our differences and judge me on my record. In the current political climate, we simply have no idea what the future will bring. But I never have – and I never will – let national politics stand in the way of delivering for the Scottish Borders.


Lib Dem criticises Government over ‘broken promise’ on rural broadband

A Lib Dem campaigner has asked the Government to make public any impact on rural areas they anticipate following reports which raise questions about the roll-out of superfast broadband. Recent reports in the national media suggest that the Government s pledge to provide high-speed broadband to every home in the UK has been dropped in an attempt to save money. It is claimed the technology will only be provided in rural areas on request because, according to a Whitehall document, it is unlikely that everyone will want to be connected .

However, this has been refuted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with a spokesman saying: Our current plans will reach at least 95 per cent of the UK, but we want everyone to have fast broadband, so we are introducing a Universal Service Obligation to help make sure no one is left behind. Lib Dem Julie P rksen, who stood for election in the Berwick constituency last May, said: The whole point of the superfast broadband programme was to reach all rural areas; this decision not to roll out fully shows the Conservative Government really does not prioritise the needs of rural people and businesses.

Fast internet connections are essential for everyone from B&Bs with online bookings, to farmers filling in forms, to schoolchildren doing homework.

Northumbrian business people I have spoken to are really angry about this decision as they were relying on broadband improving to run their businesses. In Januuary this year, a BT spokeswoman confirmed that in excess of 70 per cent of households in the Berwick constituency have already been upgraded and this will increase to more than 90 per cent by the end of the current plans.

Praise for Greenvale

16:18 Tuesday 16 February 2016

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Right Hon Theresa Villiers MP visited potato producer Greenvale, in Duns, with local MSP John Lamont this week. As part of a visit to the Scottish Borders, the Secretary of State toured fresh potato and seed potato producer Greenvale, a Borders based company which employs up to 1,500 people across 9 UK sites. The visit was an opportunity to discuss what further steps the UK Government can take to support local businesses.

John Lamont MSP said: I was very pleased to be able to welcome Theresa Villiers MP to Berwickshire and to pay a visit to Greenvale. This company is one of many which highlight the fantastic produce we get here in the Borders.

They are also a key provider of much needed apprenticeships, which are key to a skilled and motivated workforce. That is why I support Scottish Conservative plans to create 10,000 new apprenticeships a year in the next Parliament.

Theresa is a good friend of the Borders and has visited a number of times. It is always really helpful to have a UK Government Minister visit and see for themselves the positives and challenges businesses face here. Following the visit, Theresa Villiers MP said: It was a pleasure to pay a visit to such a successful Berwickshire business. It is firms like this which provide growth and local jobs which is why the UK Government is backing small businesses across the United Kingdom by cutting business and jobs taxes. I enjoyed seeing the work that goes on in Greenvale and listening to what more the UK Government can do to support the Borders economy.

Procurement Director at Greenvale, Douglas Bell said: It was great to have Theresa Villiers MP visit Berwickshire and to show her around the Greenvale factory with local MSP John Lamont.

It was an opportunity to discuss how the UK Government can further help local businesses and local jobs.

Keeping businesses taxes as low as possible and investment in transport links and broadband are really important to Greenvale and it was useful to be able to stress this with a UK Government Minister.