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Live Reporting

By Craig Hutchison and Louise Wilson

All times stated are UK

  1. Solutions for rural premises will be tailored to suit needs

    Jamie Greene expresses concern that "inferior technology" could be used in order to meet the 100% target.

    Solutions for rural communities will be tailored to suit premises on a case-by-case basis, Mr Wheelhouse says.

    Claire Blake
    Image caption: Claire Blake, the R100 Commercial Director

    Colin Smyth wonders if the commercial side of R100 is likely to be delivered in time.

    Claire Blake says the government is monitoring plans and fitting aligned interventions to gaps left by commercial solutions to ensure the commitment for 100% coverage is met.

  2. R100 will not deliver 100% coverage alone

    Tory MSP Jamie Greene asks for clarification that the contracts will be outcome-led on a fixed price.

    Robbie McGhee, head of digital connectivity division with the Scottish government, explains this is a subsidy based contract with risks attached.

    It is not a fixed price contract, rather a gap price contract, adds Claire Blake.

    She says the overall R100 programme is to deliver 100% but the R100 is only part of this and it is not designed to deliver 100% by itself.

    The 100% coverage comes from the R100 along with aligned interventions and the planned commercial build, adds Ms Blake.

    "Collectively we will achieve 100%," concurs Mr Wheelhouse.

  3. Background: £600m Scottish broadband project 'may need more funds'

    The government is praised in the report for hitting a target to give access to 95% of premises
    Image caption: The government is praised in the report for hitting a target to give access to 95% of premises

    Last year we reported that the Scottish government's pledge to deliver superfast broadband across Scotland may need investment on top of the £600m committed, says a watchdog.

    In a report, the auditor general also said there was a lack of clarity over how 100% coverage of 30 megabit per second (Mb/s) speeds would be achieved.

    The report did praise the government for hitting a target to provide fibre broadband access to 95% of premises.

    The government said its commitment was "unmatched anywhere in the UK".

  4. When will people know they are being connected?

    Peter Chapman asks when people will know with certainty when they will be connected, adding there is huge frustration around this.

    Mr Wheelhouse accepts there was frustration during the delivery of Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband due to a lack of clarity on when premises would be connected.

    He says this will be improved for R100 and there will be a postcode checker.

  5. 'Certain amount of frustration'

    Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles
    Image caption: Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles

    Mike Rumbles highlights a certain amount of frustration because the committee can't seem to get confirmation of the Scottish government's target.

    "I get the impression that there is not a lot of proactivity here," the Lib Dem MSP adds.

    "We are very much proactive in this," replies Mr Wheelhouse.

    The minister reiterates the commercial confidentiality of the procurement process must be respected.

    Mr Rumbles argues the minister could still give his target dates and Mr Wheelhouse points out again that the end of 2021 remains the goal, although this will require more funding outwith the R100.

  6. Minister to reveal completion date when allowed to

    Mr Mountain posits that the minister knows the completion date but cannot say at the moment.

    The convener adds he is sure Mr Wheelhouse will "hot foot" it back to the committee to say when procurement restrictions are lifted.

    The minister commits to do that.

  7. Will the 2021 target be met?

    Labour MSP Colin Smyth

    Labour MSP Colin Smyth asks whether the pledge to deliver R100 by the end of 2021 will be met, given we are a year behind already.

    Mr Wheelhouse reiterates the government is confident about signing contracts for central and south by the end of the year.

    However, he says he is unable to give detail of the timings due to ongoing and upcoming negotiations with the bidders - but he does accept the 2021 deadline is challenging.

    Mr Smyth insists the government must have some idea about whether it could be met, but the minister says he is unable to give further detail.

  8. Goal remains 100% coverage

    Tory MSP Finlay Carson asks what the completion date will be and will it be part of the contract.

    Mr Wheelhouse replies he can't say due to the procurement process, but he points out the government is aiming for the end of 2021, although this is very challenging.

    We are confident that we will have a good outcome and be ahead of the rest of the UK, he adds, saying the goal remains 100% coverage.

    The Reaching 100% Programme ("R100") is striving to extend the availability of broadband infrastructure to meet the Scottish government's commitment to deliver superfast broadband access to 100% of premises in Scotland by 2021.

  9. Tory MSP says plans already behind schedule

    Mr Wheelhouse confirms it is the intention to sign the contracts for all three lots (south, central and north) by the end of the year.

    He says there has been some difficulties with the north lot but he is hopeful this can be completed soon.

    Tory MSP Peter Chapman

    Tory MSP Peter Chapman asks why the central and south lots cannot be announced now, instead of waiting for the north lot to be concluded.

    Mr Wheelhouse says the two lots are still undergoing the processing of crossing t's and dotting i's.

    Mr Chapman argues we are already months behind schedule, with contracts originally meant to be back in Spring.

    The minister points to delays due to legal challenges and changes of policy by the UK government.

  10. Background: Scottish areas with 'best and worst' broadband

    Which? said slower speeds can affect online banking and streaming services
    Image caption: Which? said slower speeds can affect online banking and streaming services

    Orkney, Shetland and Argyll and Bute have come bottom of a table ranking local authority areas by broadband speeds, according to Which?

    The consumer body analysed speed checker data in 32 council areas.

    West Dunbartonshire, Inverclyde and Dundee have the fastest broadband speeds, the research suggested.

    The Scottish government said delivering high-speed broadband in rural areas was more challenging but it was making good progress.

    Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) which leads the £410m Digital Scotland project, also pointed out that many customers had not yet taken up the highest speed connections available in their area.

  11. 'The final few will be really, really challenging'

    SNP MSP Emma Harper
    Image caption: SNP MSP Emma Harper

    SNP MSP Emma Harper says she is interested in the last few premises that need to access broadband.

    "The final few will be really, really challenging," Ms Harper adds.

    She asks who will get the contract for the north of Scotland, but Mr Wheelhouse says he cannot answer at this stage with an announcement expected before the end of 2019.

  12. Contract with BT to be signed by end of year

    Mr Wheelhouse

    Mr Wheelhouse confirms the Scottish government is working with BT to finalise the R100 contracts, with signing expecting by the end of the year.

    He confirms detailed delivery plans will be shared with the committee when the government is able to do so, though he adds there are clear plans from the UK government are also awaited.

    The minister emphasises that despite it being a reserved matter, good progress is being made.

    Progress in relation to Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) and mobile telecommunications are also highlighted, including the 5G strategy.

  13. Digital connectivity evidence session begins shortly


    The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee takes evidence from:

    • Energy, Connectivity and the Island Minister Paul Wheelhouse
    • Robbie McGhee, head of digital connectivity division
    • Claire Blake, R100 commercial director with the Scottish government
    • Anamaria Rehbein, lead on procurement input on R100, with the Scottish government
    • Caroline Tait, legal advisor to the Scottish government

    Read the committee papers here.

  14. Welcome to Holyrood Live!

    Mike Russell

    Welcome to BBC Scotland's Holyrood Live coverage of the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 30 October 2019.

    Here's what we're covering today:

    • 10am: The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee takes evidence on digital connectivity
    • 1.30 pm: Ministerial Statement: Impact of Proposed New EU Exit Deal on Scotland (15 mins statement, 30 mins questions)
    • 2.15pm: Portfolio Questions: Health and sport ministers will be quizzed, followed by communities and local government ministers
    • 2.55 - 5pm: Glasgow School of Art Fire debate, led by the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee
    • 5.05pm: Members’ Business: Margaret Mitchell – Charities, Scotland and Holyrood