The population of rural Scotland is growing, accounting for approximately 20% of the population - now over one million people. It also continues to change, becoming more culturally diverse. The employment base is broader than 20 years ago and an improved infrastructure increasingly allows for greater spread of business, home-working and the generation of renewable energy. Community engagement in the ownership of land and assets, together with the delivery of services through partnerships, gives potential for locally-specific approaches. Meanwhile rural towns and businesses play an increasing role in reducing vulnerability by increasing the spread of employment.Section 5 is dedicated to Next generation broadband in rural Scotland, of which the key finding are:
Rural next generation broadband: is integral to Scotland’s social and economic development and to the delivery of the Scottish Government’s National Outcomes. Demand is persistent and increasing. While urban Scotland’s connectivity gets faster much of rural Scotland remains in the “final third” with “not-spots” and “twilight zones” hampering inclusion and development. Even maintaining the existing divide will require significant infrastructural investment, including by communities themselves. Next generation broadband enables the realisation of commonly-accepted “rights” for Scotland’s citizens, irrespective of location. National investment remains essential to enable rural communities and businesses to live and work in a fit-for-purpose digital Scotland.
Improvements to broadband in many (though by no means all) rural areas also mean that private sector businesses are able to diversify into, or set up in, new ‘knowledgebased’ sectors, such as web or graphic design or market research.
- There is no doubt that high-speed or next generation broadband is integral to social and economic development and to the delivery of Scotland’s National Outcomes in rural Scotland.
- However, despite strategies and investments since 1999, much of rural Scotland remains in the “final third” with “not-spots” and “twilight zones” hampering inclusion and development. Urban Scotland’s connectivity, meanwhile, is getting faster, faster.
- In fact, significant infrastructural investment, including by communities themselves, is required even to maintain the rural-urban digital divide.
- Next generation broadband enables the realisation of commonly-accepted “rights” for Scotland’s citizens, irrespective of location – and the role of next generation broadband in supporting the delivery of these rights is indisputable.
- Demand for next generation broadband is persistent and increasing amongst rural businesses and communities, from accessible to remoter areas.
- This demand for next generation broadband in rural Scotland, and the implications of not meeting it, means that partnership working and ongoing investment are becoming more critical. This is particularly so in times of efficiency budgeting and declining services experienced in many rural areas. National-level investment across Scotland remains essential. Communities, private and public sectors exchanging knowledge and experience - for example through Broadband Delivery UK, Scotland’s Infrastructure Investment Plan, and Scotland’s Digital Infrastructure Action Plan – are critical for rural communities and businesses to experience the advantages of a digital Scotland.