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Digital Scotland Hails “Fibre Broadband” for 940,000 Premises

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019 (8:50 am) - Score 1,419
digital scotland fibre broadband

The £442m (public and private investment) Digital Scotland (DSSB) project has announced that their Openreach (BT) supported roll-out of “fibre broadband” (FTTC and FTTP) services has now reached over 940,000 extra premises, which equates to nearly 95% with access to a “superfast broadband” speed of 24Mbps+.

The project, which has focused its effort upon areas that either wouldn’t have been upgraded by commercial projects or might have otherwise had to wait years longer (if left up to the market), also notes that the contract has so far delivered around 100,000 more premises than originally planned. The milestone figure of 940,000 also represents an increase of +4,000 premises since the last update in September.

NOTE: DSSB estimates that, without the programme, only around 66% of premises would have access via commercial upgrades. Upgrades via DSSB are not automatic, you have to order it from an ISP.

The Digital Scotland contract is currently still running and, in these its final months, seems largely focused upon the deployment of Gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband technology thanks to a reinvestment of funding (£17.8m) via gainshare (here). Otherwise the network extension has so far built 5000 new street cabinets and 13,000km of new fibre.

The latest milestone figure of 940,000 was achieved with a deployment in the East Ayrshire village of New Cumnock earlier this week.

Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Scottish Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, said:

“It is another great milestone that the DSSB programme have achieved, reaching over 940,000 homes and business across Scotland.

It is also fantastic news that the programme has been able to benefit residents and businesses in and around villages like New Cumnock – with deployment continuing across Scotland into 2020.”

Meanwhile we’re still awaiting news of a supplier for the much delayed £600m follow-on Reaching 100% (R100) programme, which is expected to extend the reach of FTTP even further into remote rural communities. Originally R100 aspired to bring superfast broadband to every home in Scotland by the end of 2021 (March 2022 financial) but that target now seems virtually impossible to achieve (certainly not via FTTP by 2021).

The Scottish Government‘s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, has previously staked his job on completing the R100 roll-out on time (here). “If I don’t deliver this by 2021, I think it will be time for [me] to depart and do something else, and leave the job to somebody else. But I can assure you, we’re on the case,” said Fergus in May 2018.

Once again it’s worth reminding readers that the responsibility for improving broadband in Scotland is actually reserved to Westminster, although like many other UK local authorities the Scottish Government can choose to commit its own public funding to the effort (much as they’ve done with R100).

However in the future the UK Government has hinted that it may only supply public funding, such as from the recently announced pot of £5bn (here), to local authorities rather than devolved government’s (BDUK did this in England but not Wales, Scotland and N.Ireland). Handing funding to councils, with the odd exception (e.g. Devon and Somerset), has generally been seen to make faster progress.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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47 Responses
  1. Avatar NGA for all

    Think Broadband record Scotlands premise totals to be 2.7m. This is generous compared to Openreach system size which is much less. The BT 2/3 of this according to DSSB is 1.8m, leaving 928k to be done. But DSSB is now reporting 940k completed and 156k remaining for R100 which is still being reduced.

    I am not sure why Scottish Government is crediting BT Group for work it did not do. BT commercial is c3,500 cabs. Subsidy is 5,100 cabs.

    Getting this right is important to gleaning the full potential available. It will also reduce dramatically the cost of R100.

    • Avatar CarlT

      What do you mean by ‘Openreach system size is much less’?

    • Avatar NGA for all

      Carl T – OPenreach operational system size is reported in BT’s accounts. It dipped just under 25m premises connected.
      BT Coverage tends to be reported as a function of this number or often is.
      The lack of coverage tends to be reported as a function of 28.5m Ofcom or c30M (Think Broadband).
      You can live with this as long as we go beyond 96%+ we switch to the actual numbers by area. Even those not wanting a service or mobile only becomes very relevant.
      Systematically completing 10k a month FTTP rural until 2025 + NI, Scotland is extremely good. The EFRA SC report on Broadband has useful annexes on rural premise counts, but not there source.

      The lack of FTTP in-fill in Scotland (only 21,000) creates an imbalance with the rest of the country even though the budgets were allocated for this work.

    • Avatar Andrew Ferguson

      As covered elsewhere

      Openreach operational system size DOES NOT EQUAL the number of premises in the United Kingdom.

      You have been told this before and refuse to learn but I have to step in and highlight your mis-information again.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Why, oh why, is it that every time NGA writes something errors have to be pointed out?

    • Avatar A_Builder

      @TheFacts

      Lets not be too harsh.

      Whilst some of the detail is all over the place @NGA for all does broadly have some kind of a valid point.

      And being poked about it in public *may* have made OR move the capital deferrals up the running order.

      I just wish @NGA would be a tiny bit more careful with his facts and therefore the valid portions of his argument(s) would have far more force.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      Andrew et al, The system size is relevant which is why I raise the matter. There are plenty of folk sledging rather than adding anything. That is fine, evidence will hold in the end.

      You have not actually provided a reconciliation just blagged some guff which is not the same as providing a factual answer. Real discrepancies creep into TB coverage data as you flip between regional and then a build up by constituency or local authority data. This happens but it just needs explaining rather than blagging.

      A_Builder .. I am happy to correct specifics where they are found wanting. But here the Scottish statement undersells what Scotland has achieved. Most folk here will not acknowledge the NAU finding in 2015 that BDUK Framework was inflated by 38%. This finding is crucial to understanding why BT did not eqiuip to do more work and set the bar higher in 2012-13. There is a big upside to claim and folk should focus on how that is achieved.

    • Avatar CarlT

      So your idea of ‘system size’ is premises connected and being served rather than premises actually being passed.

      I know of no-one else using that term, it’s not a standard term, however if used it would refer to the premises addressable / passed, not those connected.

      By that measure Virgin Media’s ‘system size’ would be about 5.4 million despite their having ducting to about 15 million.

      A few rural altnets passing a matter of thousands of premises don’t get to rewrite industry standard definitions to only list premises active and connected as ‘system size’.

      It’s people trying to rewrite the definitions to fit their own prejudices that are blagging, not those using the definitions that have been standard practice in telco / cableco accounts for decades.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      Cart T. Not quite, it is the PST system size and at least it would provide a picture from an Openreach perspective which is close to 100% in rural and they are the nominated B-USO holder apart the from metropolitan paradise of Hull.

      I am not trying to re-write definition but hone in on a more precise number if possible. Producing a range a least allows a discussion.

      For instance the EFRA numbers for rural are smaller than TB’s. There system size is 29.4m and their rural count is 6.06m. When getting closer to the end it not unwise to check and ask questions of the number and attempt to understand what Openreach might be seeing.

      There is a sizable discrepancy (826k v 772k) between TB’s number for NI compared to EFRA so the question is legitimate, and what BT see will be different again. It is not that OR cannot report the number of premises not connected.

    • Avatar Jim Weir

      Openreach “System size” as @NGA calla it is only relevant when looking at % OR services taken ie % ADSL or % VDSL. With increasing OR FTTP makes the relevance of any statistics based on PSTN or No of lines irrelevant.

      It’s only other use would be calculating clawback within Openreach BDUK delivery.

      As Andrew stated, the only baseline for comparing coverage is number of premises. Otherwise you discount every property with only VM or another alternative & no Openreach service installed or live. It also has to take account of countless 2nd (3rd & 4th) lines to a given address, plus many countless more services used for other purposes ( monitoring utilities, traffic signalling, backup etc etc)

    • Avatar Andrew Ferguson

      And what is the newest postcode in the EFRA data? Also what is EFRA using to define rural?

      We are up to date to July 2019, i.e. last set issued by ONS. Some of the multiple provider options are still being worked on for jul/jun/may and build numbers do change over time too, e.g. estates get larger but don’t always add more postcodes.

      If EFRA want to get in touch to discuss figures, methodology, and perhaps more detail e.g. rural vs urban at local authority level then happy to explain it all again, i.e. have done the same presentation a number of times now to different bodies.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      Andrew, EFRA define ‘rural’and it is slightly different in E&W to Scot and NI, but thank you for the clarification. Is that ONS aligned to the poll tax and Rates payments?

      At some point at a time convenient for you could show how speed data for BT rural exchange reconciles to the ONS data.

    • Avatar Jim Weir

      Poll tax, think you are a little out of date!

    • Avatar Andrew Ferguson

      1. How is a rural BT exchange defined?
      2. What poll tax?

      I use the standard ONS postcode dataset for determining things like local authority, output area, ward, NUTS, national parks etc

      If you have a need for something different, then paying for custom data runs is possible.

    • Avatar CarlT

      By PST I presume you mean PSTN?

      I had a look at BT’s results and haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.

      ‘Our customer base

      The size, scope and breadth of our customer base gives us an advantage over our competitors. We have a total of around 26.8 million consumer customers, 1.1 million UK business customers and 4,100 multinational customers.’

      ‘Networks and physical assets

      We maintain a substantial core network with key fixed and mobile assets, such as our superfast fibre broadband footprint of 27.5
      million homes and businesses and our mobile spectrum assets.’

      https://www.btplc.com/Sharesandperformance/Annualreportandreview/2019summary/assets/documents/BT_annual_report_2019.pdf

      You are I reckon exactly as I suggested confusing number of live connections with premises passed – a very basic error which really doesn’t help with any other points you’re trying to make.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Interesting document.

      ‘This is likely to be contributing to BDUK’s tendency to switching its focus using funds intended for completing rural areas. to attempting to encourage competition in urban areas via their local full fibre network (LFFN) programme.’

      Is an interesting claim. I’d welcome some evidence that BDUK funds are being used instead for LFFN alongside how this focus has been switched. I understood the programmes were being handled by local authorities, not national BDUK?

    • Avatar NGA for all

      Carl T if you want to count global do. PST & PSTN are used interchangeably.
      Jim, council tax ..same difference it provides a means of double checking a number.

      And the sledge avoids why Scotland’s numbers for BT coverage must be wrong.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      CARL T .. BDUK holds all the strings, LA’s had the Framework as gospel. The question can and should be posed as the origins of the LFFN funds is not clear. It is not clear if it is new money.

      The overall contention is more important. An ill conceived, an miss-informed and badly timed B-USO could be used by some LDP to prevent BDUK from hitting the goals as stated in 2011-12 – taking fibre as far as possible into rural.

      This is very relevant for Scotland where so little FTTP in-fill has been conducted so far.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      Carl T if you read ex Minister Margot James evidence it suggests she was celebrating 95% coverage with it coming as a shock that 95% national equalled c83% rural coverage. She described the latter as unacceptable but could not go further.
      17% of 6m (rural) only is 1m – 700k for England. But much is contracted or pending with the deferrals and further reconciliations to push on again. I put a blog up showing how if the monies are applied then there are only three English regional procurements needed to contract an outstanding 300-400k in England – the rest is already contracted or pending.

      Andrew has done a fantastic job, but we getting into the final 1-3% so the numbers have to add up. If you regionalise the final procurements you can push money to where it is needed including any grabbing back from any incomplete LFFN projects or projects which fail state aid tests.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      CarlT Facts .. BT KPI – https://btplc.com/Sharesandperformance/Financialreportingandnews/Quarterlyresults/2019-2020/Q1/Downloads/KPIs/BTGroup-Q12019-20-KPIs.pdf Page 9 has a BT passed of 27.6m and OSS just under 25m.

      So why is Scotland stating BT invested in 2/3?

    • Avatar Jim Weir

      @NGA

      Where does that document state a system size?
      That only describes number of lines connected and prem passed for Superfast.

      To derive a total system size you’d need another number – namely either total premises passed by PSTN or total number of disconnected lines.

      Even then you can’t correlate that with total premise UK wide count.

      Mike, you pull up comments from industry and political figures & use as evidence, so equally the words you choose to use matter as well. Don’t say Poll tax if you mean Council Tax as accuracy is important.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      Jim, . again Working system size and connected are both used to describe the same thing. It is the operational section.

      Does this stop the question raised being answered?

    • Avatar Jim Weir

      But excludes millions using different connections so meaningless whatever you call it

    • Avatar NGA for all

      Jim …millions in terms of difference?. in Scotland and rural? Sure business connectivity is separate but we are discussing Broadband for residential and SME’s.

      Facts – yes it has been verified in so far it has raised a valid question, and the Committee and other experts agree. Why do you think 99% will be within reach of it was not true?

    • Avatar Jim Weir

      Virgin Media + Hyperoptic + Community Fibre + every other fibre & Wireless Service, + 4G Broadband with EE & Three

      Very few of these will also have a live Openreach service. So yes millions!

      Which other experts agree with your paper? Can you name them?

    • Avatar Gadget

      lets try a step back

      1) there are a number of premises in the UK that can take communications services – ONS is one source, Ordnance Survey is another.

      2) Each Communications Provider can provide service to those premises if they have infrastructure available – often called the addressable system size. Not all of 1) will be accessible by 2) so 2) will always be less than or in rare cases equal to 1).

      3) An individual premises may take more than one of a service (a business with multiple PSTN lines for example) in this case 3) will be more than 2) and can even be more than 1)

      So unless you understand what is being counted and reported trying to extrapolate with combinations of information from 1) 2) and & 3) will be a completely meaningless exercise.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      JIm, you can read it in the EFRA report. I hope the discourse on the CDS numbers where the the numbers for the entire SW were being used suggests there is some value in checking.

      BT should have assets almost everywhere so – ‘millions’ is peculiar particularly in rural.

      Gadget, tx I will trawl through the Council Tax + RV data and compare for Eng & Wales, to see where that lands.

      It still avoids why Scotland think BT investment covered 2/3!

    • Avatar Andrew Ferguson

      Have searched https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmenvfru/2223/2223.pdf for CDS or Devon or Somerset or text mentions of South West and nothing jumps out.

      So on what pages are they discussing CDS?

      Do remember that CDS is not equivalent to the South West, there are other councils with their own targets. Also discussion of CDS has changed massively since the EFRA report now that Gigaclear does not have 5 lots.

    • Avatar Jim Weir

      He’s referring to FB conversation and missing the point – I made a guesstimate on size of CDS potential intervention size post Gigaclear, but Mike prefers to use my over estimate to claim something else, no doubt will feature as “evidence” at a later date.

      Mike, million’s yes, millions not included in your Openreach system size – but not millions in rural, never said or implied that. In the context of your claim of coverage that can be delivered there is no distinction between rural / urban, Openreach data does not distinguish so you are extrapolating based on incomplete data – that results in meaningless claims

    • Avatar CarlT

      *Sigh*

      PST and PSTN are not used interchangeably. Public Switched/Service Telephone and Public Switched/Service Telephone Network don’t carry the same meaning.

      I have never seen any standards body document or official document refer to the PST.

      The attempt to conflate superfast premises passed with system size is absurd. I am capable of reading and have myself worked on large networks.

      At no point did we refer to anything along the lines of ‘system size’ as being anything other than premises addressable/passed. Active connections are an entirely different metric.

      To make robust arguments credibility is important. Pointless and absurd rewriting of internationally long-accepted norms to try and emphasise a point doesn’t help with this.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      Carl T.. PST, PSTN, POTS, take your pick! The numbers will need to be resolved not avoided.

      Andrew – look a little harder, nothing to do with CDS.

      Jim – your numbers on CDS were wrong and needed challenging because they suggested the outstanding work would cost more that it would need too.

      You avoid the original question which was that BT could not have invested in 2/3 in Scotland as claimed. Only by appreciating how much Digital Scotland have paid for, can they appreciate how much more can be achieved.

    • Avatar Gadget

      @NGA – what are you using to dispute the 2/3 figure on? Don’t forget commercial cabs are almost certain to have a larger number of connections (one might say by a rural mile) than the contracted ones.

    • Avatar Andrew Ferguson

      Look a littleharder at what? Trying to understand what you mean because that is the difficulty I am having.

      Where in the EFRA report was it talking about CDS, which you seemed to imply it was, or was it just the conversations and musing you’ve been doing on Facebook?

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @NGAetc. – I asked if your submission been independently evaluated for accuracy.

      Your reply ‘it has been verified in so far it has raised a valid question’ is not saying it has been checked for accuracy by an independent expert on the subject.

      If it raises a question has it been a)checked to be accurate and valid and b) answered?

      Simple yes or no answers please.

  2. Avatar Eddie Collins

    Really pleased to note this GREAT SUCCESS wish we could join it. Here in Millerhill, Dalkeith were are one step up from dialup 1.2 Mb. Speed if we are lucky, no high speed internet here, still old copper wire.

    • Avatar John

      Virgin covered Danderhall recently and are currently doing Dalkeith/Woodburn/Mayfield.

      If you got a bunch of residents to sign up to the cable my street site they may pop the short distance to Millerhill.

    • Avatar Peter

      @John

      Do you know if VM will be doing Newtongrange and Gorebridge after Mayfield and if so when?

      Cheers

    • Avatar John

      Keep an eye on the roadworks.org or Scottishroadworks website.
      You need to filter/extend the dates on both sites to see future work.

      Currently a tiny part of Dalkeith around the old high school is being done.
      Most of Woodburn.
      All of Kippielaw, Wester Kippielaw (St David’s Primary development), all of Easthouses, and the bottom half of Mayfield.

      No roadworks booked for Newtongrange or Gorebridge yet but that does not mean they won’t cover them as Kippielaw and parts of Easthouses were only recently added.

      My house was passed over the weekend and a Toby is installed right where I wanted it.

      I made a thread on the Kitz forum covering the rollout in Midlothian.

      Perhaps Mark might run a story on this as he’s covered their 10,000 Midlothian property ambition before and this adds a few thousand to that but don’t think it reaches the target yet.

      I’d be amazed if they didn’t cover Newtongrange.

      There’s nothing but OpenReach FTTC or ADSL in all the areas mentioned in this post.
      All on the ESDAL exchange.

    • Avatar John

      Should clarify Gorebridge is on a different telephone exchange, ESGRB.
      Same FTTC or ADSL available though.

      Irrelevant to Virgins rollout.

  3. Avatar Brian

    Also wish we could celebrate this success. Promised better broadband 10 years ago, told we would get better, I questioned that as unlikely FTTC would be of benefit, fobbed of with you’ll be suprised. Village received FTTC 5 years ago, we were too far from the cabinet, asked what about us, told upgrade for your postcode in 2017. 2017 came and went, questioned what was happening, answer, they’d given me the wrong information 3 years prior. Now a have to wait for the constantly slipping R100, to see if we’ll even be considered for decent broadband.
    Meanwhile mobile networks claim to offer 4G, with their coverage maps pure fantasy , and networks changes making the actual coverage worse.

  4. Avatar Steve

    So the nearest FTTC is 1.5 km from me, but allows OpenReach to say job done – congratulations you are on Fibre. The copper between me and the cabinet is in a shocking condition (according to the steady stream of Openreach engineers who are patching it up every month).

    The reality is that when I ordered fibre (5.5 mbps) it was slower than the old ADSL (6 mbps) – which I have now gone back to.

    So I am one of the lucky ones, fibre broadband slower than old style broadband, but as far as the statistics go, I am part of the success story.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      @Steve

      And that is the worrying other half of the story that carrying on with FTTC far longer than could be technically justified lead to.

      As so many people on this forum have remarked – FTTC had its place giving a rapid and cheap boost to urban and semi urban but the life of the FTTC program was extended beyond all usefulness. In most rural and semi rural FTTP and radio (microwave and others techs) were the only real solutions.

      Hopefully the new OR we-can-run-FTTP-from-FTTC-cabs approach means that there is less pain in making progress for those like yourself who are struggling with their broadband.

    • Avatar CarlT

      ‘So the nearest FTTC is 1.5 km from me, but allows OpenReach to say job done – congratulations you are on Fibre.

      So I am one of the lucky ones, fibre broadband slower than old style broadband, but as far as the statistics go, I am part of the success story.’

      Actually no, it doesn’t. Has to be >24 Mb or >30 Mb depending on contract for you to become a success story, You remain eligible for further intervention.

    • Avatar John

      As CarlT states the fact you have an FTTC cabinet doesn’t mean your property is ticked as done for SuperFast speeds.

      That’s only the case for those meat enough to the FTTC cabinet who can get 24Mb (or 30Mb depending on the definition of SuperFast used).

      With very little FTTC planned now it means you are much more likely to get FTTP in the future.
      If it’s state funded it will likely be before those on the same FTTC cabinet who get SuperFast speed.

      At the moment they don’t qualify for state funded upgrades and you do.

      That doesn’t mean it will be anytime soon but to think the presence of the FTTC cabinet means your “done” in OpenReach’s eyes is incorrect.

    • Avatar John

      Obviously that should have read…

      That’s only the case for those “near” enough to the FTTC cabinet

      and not “meat” enough to the FTTC cabinet.

      The ability to edit posts would be a great addition.

  5. Avatar A_Builder

    @John & @CarlT

    I was a bit vague in what I wrote and you are correct that where the contract bandwidth is not hit the box is not ticked.

    My point was more that in the rollout there should have been some end testing otherwise we are pretty much bound to discover lots of older folks with POTS only services whose dwellings when they pass start to sprout on the non USO / non BDUK compliant lists.

    I’m also not too sure what retroactive measures really exist (I think none) to deal with (other than fiddling with the copper) poor performance short of full FTTP.

    I’d accept that full(ish) FTTP to rural and semi rural is now rather closer than any of us dared to hope a few short years ago and pace is gaining. Much helped by this sort of logical thinking of leveraging existing assets in the ground. Particularly now there is cash, in sniffing distance, which seems to equate to most of the difference between commercial value and actual cost.

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