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Better Broadband and Mobile Could Help Boost Scotland’s Economy by £25bn

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017 (10:00 am) - Score 560

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has today published a new report, which claims that faster and more reliable broadband and mobile connectivity are two of several key factors that could help to deliver a £25 billion boost to the Scottish economy by 2024.

The analysis found that the most productive local authority areas (LA) in Scotland (i.e. Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire) are 50% more productive than the least productive (Shetland Islands). CBI Scotland then calculated what the economic impact would be by 2024 if each local area were to improve at the same rate as the top performer, before explaining how this could actually be achieved.

CBI Scotland’s baseline scenario (i.e. productivity for each LA continues to grow at roughly the same pace as it did between 2004 to 2014) results in Scotland’s nominal gross value added (GVA) rising 32% to £163.62bn by 2024. However if each LA grew at the same pace as the top performers then the nominal GVA of the Scottish economy would climb 53% to £188.55bn by 2024.

Sadly this is a very simplistic analysis and it fails to quantify precisely how much of that growth could come from improving digital connectivity beyond existing levels, which is a very difficult thing to get right. Nevertheless the report proceeds to recommend improvements in broadband and mobile connectivity.

CBI Report Extract – Broadband

Digital connectivity is part of our critical national infrastructure and ensuring that Scotland’s digital infrastructure meets business’ needs of tomorrow will be crucial to lifting productivity. Previous CBI research shows 91% of firms rank digital networks as a key factor in investment decisions.

CBI Scotland welcomes the Scottish government’s commitment to ensure that every business and residential premise in Scotland is able to access superfast broadband by 2021. Achieving this ambitious target will require continued public and private partnership.

However, reliability, as well as speed, of connection is vital to businesses across the country, many of whom often need to connect with others internationally. This came out as a key concern in our consultation with members, with a number of businesses having experienced reliability issues at busy times of the day.

Businesses are also increasingly reliant on the ability to work on the move. However, mobile coverage on many roads in Scotland is poor, falling below the UK average. Increasing the availability and improving the reliability of broadband coverage on public transport would help to reduce productivity loss during travel.

CBI Scotland continues to call for digital connectivity to be integrated into all future infrastructure planning and development decisions.

At present the £428m Digital Scotland project with BT (Openreach) has already ensured that “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) are able to cover “more than” 90% of the country and the existing contract expects to push this “high speed fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) network out to cover 95% of premises by the end of March 2018, which drops to 86% by the end of 2017 if you only look at the rural Highland and Islands region (here).

However the SNP dominated Scottish Government are currently working to develop a plan that will extend “superfast broadband” coverage to 100% of premises by 2021 (here) and today’s report welcomes that move, while also proposing a series of recommendations for harnessing digital connectivity in order to improve growth.

Recommendations

For the Scottish government

• Prioritise the completion of existing transport infrastructure commitments on time and continue to improve connectivity between Scotland’s City Deal Regions and with our key markets across the UK.

• Ensure decisions on future infrastructure investment are influenced by the potential economic impact of reducing journey times within local areas, which can lift productivity by giving businesses access to a greater pool of skills and talent.

• Pursue the reduction and eventual abolition of Scottish Air Passenger Duty to give Scotland an edge in the global marketplace for investment, tourism and trade.

• Ensure digital connectivity is integrated into all future infrastructure planning and development decisions.

• Work with the private sector and provide the funding necessary to deliver its commitment of ensuring that every business in Scotland is able to access superfast broadband by 2021.

• Increase the availability and improve the reliability of broadband coverage on public transport to help reduce productivity loss during travel.

For business

• Engage early with the Scottish government to help identify the next generation of priority infrastructure projects that would deliver maximum benefit to the economy.

Here’s a map of how each LA would fair if the performance of each was to match the top performing regions over the next decade.

scotland 2024 economic boost map

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar DTMark says:

    Would love to move to Scotland but finding a property that can have a broadband service is proving near impossible.

    This is where the statistics are skewed. Clearly there’s no point in serving an area of land that has a population of zero. However “90% of the country can get” means “90% of the population”.

    The moment you go outside a city or very built-up area, there’s.. nothing. Nothing at all. I must have tried 30 properties or more and only one of them gives a VDSL result. Of 71Meg. And even that looks suspect since that house is a mile from the nearest village.

    Almost every other property is estimating between nothing and 2Mbps. A line speed of 2Mbps, not actual throughput.

    So here we are in 2017, and the Scottish government are apparently “working on a plan..”

    Forgetting silly, non-performant, barely even short-term nonsense like LR-VDSL: the tech options are the same as they were five years ago.

    Why has the Scottish project not been started yet? When will it start? What is this waiting for?

    1. Avatar David says:

      Bit wierd –

      My parents live in rurual Highlands and have good 60meg interent. Have you checked pages like hie.co.uk (that’s only for the higlands). Most cities and towns are pretty well served by FTTC.

      David

    2. Avatar AndyH says:

      According to TBB, 42.64% of properties in Scotland can get an ultrafast service.

      Unless you’re looking at very remote or rural locations, I fail to understand how nearly every property you’re looking at can only get a speed of between 0 and 2Mbps.

    3. Avatar DTMark says:

      All the locations I’m looking at are rural to a degree, yes. But they’re not “in the middle of nowhere”.

      We’re very flexible about where we move to, though Perthshire is beautiful.

      I’ve given up with working out the exact addresses of places, putting them into the checker, seeing only an ADSL result if anything, and moving on to the next one. It takes forever. Those may of course be enabled for “fibre” but show no VDSL result due to line length.

      What I need is a list of all the VDSL cabinets in Perthshire so as to then draw a circle of maybe 400m around them, which then shows where acceptable speeds might be available. That will narrow it down hugely and speed up the process by showing where the BT network might be able to supply a service.

      Anyone know where I can get such a list? I do have one but it is ancient.

    4. Avatar DTMark says:

      “My parents live in rurual Highlands and have good 60meg interent. Have you checked pages like hie.co.uk”

      That’s exactly the sort of location we’re looking for 😉 Somewhere rural that happens to be right next to a VDSL cabinet. These places do exist. But there aren’t very many of those.

      With the hie website you have to query for a specific property and the availability is so poor that this is a waste of time.

      I need it to work the other way around e.g. show the places that can get decent speeds determining where we can live.

    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      Thanks Andrew. Explains a lot 😉

      Not much point in having good speeds in the Cairngorms Park since almost nobody lives there (?). Braemar seems to be the exception. It’s stunning to look at, though.

      We’d been focusing on the area to the south west of there, where people do live, and partly because it’s not far from a town in the event of downtime – it’s not going to have the four 4G network options we have here for instant failover.

      And there is absolutely nothing. So it’s useful in that it rules out that huge area in its entirety.

      But then VDSL was never going to work for enough to bother with it. It’s the wrong solution for such areas.

      If the Scottish government is waiting on some form of wired fixed-line BT-based solution to deliver, this perhaps explains why it has got nowhere.

      Looks like I need to shift my focus east of the park and seek out those green dots. Which does indeed narrow it down enormously, thank you.

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