Category: Moray

Reference Library – Scotland – Moray Broadband

Digital divide as north broadband branded ‘worst in Britain’ 0

Digital divide as north broadband branded ‘worst in Britain’

A damning survey has revealed the Highlands, Orkney and Shetland have the worst broadband speeds in the UK. In a study which tested hundreds of thousands of households and businesses in Britain’s 389 local authority areas, the average for the north mainland and northern isles all fell significantly short of the Government’s proposed minimum download speed of 10 Megabits per second (Mbps). Last night, as the Scottish Government claimed things would be even worse without its input, critics called for the “unacceptable” lack of connectivity in the north to be addressed as a priority.

Scottish Conservative politician Edward Mountain MSP said: “The remoter areas of Orkney, Shetland and the Highlands need the best possible connection of broadband to make up for the huge physical connection problems we have here. “It’s annoying that so much has been made (by Mr Ewing) about investing and connecting people in rural areas. It’s even more important in rural areas because we can not just jump in a bus, and really need the ability to talk to people on the internet.” Orkney MSP Liam McArthur (Scottish Lib Dem) has called for a renewed commitment by the Scottish and UK governments and their agencies to delivering superfast broadband. He said: “Good, reliable and affordable broadband is increasingly essential, not just for businesses but also for households looking to access a range of services.

It is also a key means of families and friends keeping in touch. “While I recognise progress has been made, these figures reaffirm our fears that the gap in broadband speeds between Orkney and the rest of the UK is growing. This digital divide will only make it harder for Orkney to compete and leaves people with an unacceptable below par service.” Consumer protection watchdog Which? published its research using data from its speed checker between January and March, which show average download speeds for Orkney are firmly at the foot of the table with just 6.3Mbps, while Shetland has 8.4Mbps, and the Highlands was third from bottom with 8.8Mbps.

These speeds fall well below 10Mbps, the minimum download speed proposed under the UK Government’s Universal Service Obligation that anyone in the UK would be entitled to request. Fergus Ewing, cabinet secretary for connectivity, said that without the Scottish Government’s investment there would be as little as 21% coverage across the Highlands and none at all in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles. The Western was fifth from the bottom in the Which?

survey, with 9Mbps. Meanwhile, an innovative new community scheme has improved the speed of broadband in one part of rural Inverness-shire. Stratherrick and Foyers Community Trust have managed to get a wireless signal to a new broadband station above Stratherrick to allow every home which could see the aerial to get connected.

Depute Chair of the Community Trust Sharon Ferguson from Whitebridge said: “Without broadband our children were unable to progress their schoolwork at home and local businesses struggled to run efficiently. “For older people even ordering their groceries on line was impossible and we were really struggling with complaints from visitors.

It used to be that folk wanted to get away from it all on holiday but staying connected is now an essential for some.” Register for our free newsletter 1 More from the Press and Journal References ^ Register for our free newsletter (www.pressandjournal.co.uk)

Andrew McCornick: NFU Scotland takes to the road for Highlands and islands tour 0

Andrew McCornick: NFU Scotland takes to the road for Highlands and islands tour

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick. Next week, starting on Monday, NFU Scotland (NFUS) is taking to the road across part of the Highlands and islands to meet farmers and crofters and to hear their views on a whole range of topics. NFUS vice-president Martin Kennedy will be kicking off the tour in Fort William and Lochailort on Monday and then travelling up through Skye and across to Lochmaddy on Tuesday, Tarbert, Isle of Harris and Stornoway, Isle of Lewis on Wednesday and then across to Ullapool on Thursday.

I am delighted to then be taking over the baton from Martin and joining the rest of the roadshow, visiting Durness on Thursday evening and heading along the coast towards Tongue and finishing off in Lairg on Friday evening. We are very keen to meet members and non-members and to hear from them on a whole range of topics. NFU Scotland has been working hard on issues such as crofting law reform, support payments, species management, including geese and sea eagles, which we know are all having a significant impact in these areas.

But with Brexit on the horizon it is vital that we hear from farmers and crofters themselves about what their concerns are and what they think we as a union should be doing for them and for the whole of Scottish agriculture. We greatly appreciate the sponsorship that Toyota has given the roadshow, so look out for us in a Toyota Proace Verso covered in NFUS logos, hotly followed by an Avonline Satellite Broadband van. We are delighted to be doing the roadshow in partnership with Avonline, and at each stop they will be demonstrating their superfast broadband, allowing attendees to try up to 30Mbps internet for themselves.

We know that broadband connection is a huge issue for many farmers and crofters and the affinity deal that NFUS has with Avonline offers a great opportunity for people to get better connected in this digital age. Talking of being well connected both Martin and I are regular “tweeters” and you will be able to follow our travels on the Twitter accounts @AndrewMccornick and @MartinKennedyVP as well as on the union Facebook page. Both Martin and myself are looking forward to going on the road to meet existing members and those interested to know more about what the union does.

The route will allow us to meet those who are the bedrock of Scottish agriculture. I would encourage anyone with an interest in ensuring a thriving rural economy exists for many generations to come and meet us and tell us your views and priorities. It is part of a very busy time in the Highlands with Martin having attended Highland Sheep on Wednesday and speaking with a lot of farmers and crofters on their thoughts for the future of the Scottish sheep industry.

Deputy director of policy Andrew Bauer was in Inverness on Thursday night with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) officials attending an open meeting on the do’s and don’ts of riverbank repairs and gravel removal. And regional manager Ian Wilson also took a group of members on a visit around ABP’s abattoir in Perth letting the group of mainly store producers see what finished stock is required by the wholesale trade. Your union is working hard on your behalf to gather your views and give you opportunities to gain information about the industry.

Andrew McCornick is president of NFU Scotland Register for our free newsletter 1 More from the Press and Journal References ^ Register for our free newsletter (www.pressandjournal.co.uk)

Highlands and Islands Enterprise: Our efforts have helped to cushion the economic blow 0

Highlands and Islands Enterprise: Our efforts have helped to cushion the economic blow

HIE’s own figures showed that the financial backing it gave to businesses and social enterprises helped to create or retain 1688 jobs. “ANOTHER year of encouraging progress”. The last year summed up in a sentence by Lorne Crerar, the chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). The development agency chief said the continued oil and gas downturn, pressures on public sector budgets and uncertainties around EU membership presented “many challenges”.

However, those problems were being tackled by “innovation, ambition, entrepreneurship and resilience” by the region’s businesses, social enterprises and communities. The statement came after HIE’s own figures showed that the financial backing it gave to businesses and social enterprises helped to create or retain 1688 jobs, of which 169 were in fragile areas. Turnover among those firms was forecast to increase by £120.4 million over three years, and international sales by £79.5 million.

The figures also reflected steady growth among small to medium enterprises across the Highlands and Islands. And inward investment activity increased significantly during the year with HIE helping to support 12 projects. Lorne Crerar: Delighted at the contribution the organisation has made.

Mr Crerar said: “It has been another year of encouraging progress for the Highlands and Islands. “A key part of HIE’s role is to foster those qualities and target investment in initiatives that stimulate and enable growth. “I am delighted at the contribution the organisation has made over the past year and look forward to continuing to work with our partners, businesses and communities across the region and beyond to build on this in the years ahead.” The figures showed community development activity continued through HIE’s work with social enterprises and communities, with the region’s social economy turnover forecast to increase by almost £5.6 million. Some £1.8 million of this will be generated by community-owned assets. The Scottish Land Fund, administered by HIE and Big Lottery on behalf of the Scottish Government, was extended to all communities across Scotland, including urban areas.

In 2016-17 the fund awarded more than £4 million to 54 projects, 31 of them in the Highlands and Islands, including acquisition and post-acquisition developments. Major milestones for HIE-led infrastructure projects included the opening of three new buildings at Inverness Campus and the first student accommodation block, the completion of the 180 metre Dales Voe South quay in Shetland, and the installation of all four turbines in the MeyGen tidal energy project off the Caithness coast. HIE also approved further investments in the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney and the new Orkney Research and Innovation Campus, a joint venture with the islands’ local authority.

Wave Energy Scotland, a subsidiary of HIE, approved £12.4 million in funding to 17 technology development projects. Digital connectivity continued to improve for businesses and households across the region, with the number of premises with access through the HIE-led Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project reaching 155,000. A further 1400 premises are now connected through 13 projects supported by Community Broadband Scotland (CBS), which is also run by HIE on behalf of Scottish Government.

CBS has delivered or has firm plans to deliver broadband to a total of 11,200 premises across Scotland within its current budget. May 2016 saw the opening of #hellodigital, the Digital Scotland Excellence Centre, established by HIE on Inverness Campus. More than 2000 delegates have since attended events and business briefings on topics such as drone technologies, digital making, virtual and augmented reality.

Companies involved include Google, IBM, CENSIS, the Datalab and Microsoft.

Following the extension of ScotGrad, the graduate placement programme run by HIE, 31 graduates and 15 students were placed with businesses across the Highlands and Islands during 2016/17.

HIE’s achievements will be in its annual report and accounts presented to Parliament this autumn.