25 October 2018

(S5O-02452) Broadband Universal Service Obligation

4. Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government whether it has discussed with the United Kingdom Government raising the UK’s proposed 10-megabit universal service obligation for broadband to match Scotland’s plans for universal availability of at least 30 megabits. (S5O-02452)

The Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands (Paul Wheelhouse): The Scottish Government has repeatedly urged the UK Government to match Scotland’s ambition and set the broadband universal service obligation at 30 megabits per second, which would help to deliver the superfast broadband connections that our rural communities need.

Scotland is the only part of the UK to have committed to extending superfast access to 100 per cent of premises, supported by an initial procurement of £600 million. Despite numerous requests, and despite the regulation and legislation of telecommunications being wholly reserved to the UK Parliament, the UK Government has contributed a mere 3.5 per cent of that investment, with the Scottish Government committing 96.5 per cent.

Stewart Stevenson: I thank the minister for that illuminating answer. Can he inform us whether the UK Government has given any assurances that the imposition of a 10-megabit universal service obligation on telecoms providers will not impede the Scottish Government’s programme to deliver 30-plus megabits everywhere by 2021?

Paul Wheelhouse: The UK Government has not given any assurances. It has now formally handed over the implementation of the broadband USO to Ofcom, which is due to consult on the designated USO provider in the autumn. The Scottish Government has a very positive working relationship with Ofcom, and officials are working closely to achieve alignment between the two schemes to help minimise confusion for the public, as well as to ensure the most effective use of public funds. It would, however, be helpful if the UK Government would engage with us on the issue.

23 October 2018

(S5T-01261) BSE

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Although Scotland has one of the most rigorous regimes in the world for monitoring and detecting BSE, are Government vets reviewing our processes to see whether this drives a need for that regime to be changed or tightened further?

The Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment (Mairi Gougeon): As I have said, the controls and the measures that we have in place have been shown to work by the very fact that we were able to pick up this case so quickly and act on it in such a responsive way. Of course, if the investigations identify any possible areas for improvement, we will look very seriously and closely at that, and potentially take forward improvements, if there are any to be made.

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