Scotland Together – The Scottish Community Channel Owned by the People of Scotland

 

 

 

 

Scotland Together – The Scottish Community Channel Owned by the People of Scotland

Fed-up with the bare faced lies and biased output of BBC Scotland and commercial television. Need a break from Jacki Bird, Sarah Smith and fat-boy Taylor?

Turn to Freeview Channel 989 or (Sky 545, Virgin333 and Freesat 67) and you can start watching “Scotland Together” –  a TV channel built by the people of Scotland.

Programming includes documentaries, political comment, current affairs and news. It also covers nature, arts & crafts, gardening and DIY.

The channel is registered as an Independent Community Benefit Society and holds charitable status.

Could this become a reality? The Community Channel has done it. Go to: (https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/community-channel) and (togethertv.com)

There is an abundance of media savvy people in support of an independent Scotland more than capable of getting this off the ground.. It just needs a kick start.

 

 

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Colin James Clark

Multi-Millionaire Colin James Clark was born 20 May 1969. His father Robbie owned a 1000 acre+ farm and three cottages (rented out) near Auchterless.  In 1990. His early career in agriculture to him to Lincolnshire where he developed an interest in organic farming of products for direct sale.

Circumstances forced his return to Scotland in 2005 and his acceptance of the task of overall management and development of the farming business of Thomastown Farm and Cottages when his brothers expressed a preference to pursue careers not involving farming.

He is the owner of Finask House a Category B Listed property in Daviot, Aberdeenshire, valued at around £1.5 million.

 

 

 

Business and Financial interests outside politics:

R&M Clark Farmers: Selling finished beef cattle and store lambs is the main enterprise with an annual purchase of 1,400 Continental cross steers and 1500 store lambs. The aim of the business is to to pile on the beef over a period of 60 days then get them to the market.

The Scottish taxpayer provides substantial financial support to the business by way of farming subsidies. In the years 2015/2016 the enterprise was advanced a total of: £213,129.00p

 

 

Nessgro Ltd: Clark shares a controlling 50% interest and is Chairman of Inverness based Nessgro Ltd (annual turnover £1.5m and growing) which specialises in organic root vegetable production on 120 hectares of land.

It has its own wash factory and pack house which allows a direct to customer sale business. The company was awarded the prestigious Grower of the Year in 2007 and in 2013 won the Marks and Spencer’s Scottish produce category as well as their Champion of Champions Farming for the Future Award.

The Scottish taxpayer provides substantial financial support to the business by way of farming subsidies. In the year 2016 the enterprise was advanced a total of: £134,049.00p

Marks & Spencer – There is no Scotland claim

Edith Davidson, from Innerleithen, wrote to the company after gaining information about the high street giant labelling Scottish whisky as British, has told of her shock after Marks & Spencer responded to a complaint about Scottish whisky being branded British by telling her to respect the result of the 2014 referendum and accept that Scotland was now “a part of the country known as England”.

 

 

Shareholding (more than £70K) – Clark’s extensive investment portfolio and pensions are managed by Balmoral Asset Management Ltd (Edinburgh)

Shareholding:

Sciemus Ltd; technology and insurance. The Lloyd’s insurance consultancy operating in the space, power, renewable energy, cyber and mining industries, has recently formed an investing partnership with offshore Bermuda registered HSCM Bermuda.

Maven Capital Partners UK LLP (Maven) is an independent private equity business. Previously the Private Equity division of Aberdeen Asset Management, they arrange finance for management buyouts, acquisition finance, expansion capital and development capital, for companies valued at up to £25 million throughout the UK.

More detail here: (https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/maven-capital-partners) and here: (https://twitter.com/Maven_CP) Major player operating out of Glasgow.

Examples of Marven/Clark recent financial investments

Maven Capital Partners has led a £5.5m investment into Flexlife, an Aberdeen-based energy service business. In the face of significant competition for the mandate from other private equity houses, Maven has syndicated the deal with the respected energy sector fund, Simmons Parallel Energy. The new funding package will help support Flexlife through its next phase of development.

Maven Capital Partners has bought a controlling stake in the R&M Engineering oil services business from Robbie Mackay in a £5 million deal that shows its faith in the potential of the North Sea market. The Glasgow-based private equity investor believes R&M Engineering could enjoy years of strong growth amid booming investment in the North Sea. Based in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, R&M Engineering provides services like the design and fabrication of modules and pipework for oil rigs that are being refurbished or for new facilities.

Private equity firm Maven Capital Partners has led a £14 million management buyout of Forfar- based specialist mechanical and hydraulic engineering firm, Rmec Ltd. Glasgow-based Maven has invested £7.5 million to support the Rmec buyout, which will be utilised to expand its rental fleet, further develop its workshop and storage facilities and bolster its management team. Rmec specialises in the manufacture, maintenance, repair, testing, recertification and rental of well services equipment for the oil and gas industry. It currently employs 20 staff and is reported to have generated sales in the region of £9 million in the most recent financial year.

In March 2013, Maven clients invested £4.6 million to acquire the former Clarence Hotel in Llandudno, North Wales. The property had been vacant for some time and the existing structure will be comprehensively refurbished, along with a limited new-build on parts of the upper floor, to provide 82 en-suite bedrooms to Travelodge’s specifications with a further two retail units on the ground floor.

The transaction qualifies for BPRA (Business Premises Renovation Allowance) which enables UK taxpaying investors to claim tax allowances against much of the capital invested in refurbishing the empty building and returning it to commercial use. The completed development is scheduled for completion in Spring 2015.

Maven Capital Partners has secured £7 million of funding to deliver an new hotel development in Glasgow’s Merchant City. The Glasgow-based private equity firm said the funding scheme, utilising the benefits of the Business Premises Renovation Allowance (BPRA), will include the purchase of Telfer House, a currently empty office building.

Maven said the building will be refurbished into a 96-bedroom ibis Styles hotel, which will be managed by specialist hotel management company, RedefineBDL. Ramsay Duff, of Maven Capital Partners, said: “We are delighted to have secured this opportunity for our investors, offering useful tax incentives with a high quality underlying property asset.

 

 

Politics

10 Jun 2017: A crowd-funder begging advert: Please donate to support Colin and send him to represent the Gordon constituency at Westminster. Only Colin can join and contribute to the Government at Westminster. Fighting an election costs money as we need to produce letters, leaflets, posters and campaigning materials to help Colin get his message out across the Gordon and beat Alex Salmond. We need £2000

 

 

Tory defence of the independence of Scottish affairs

The 2017 General Election returned a bakers dozen of Conservative Scottish MPs to Westminster. Ruth Davidson’s force provided the numbers allowing a minority of English MP’s to form a UK government with a barely operational majority (with the support of the Democratic Unionists furnished with a £1.5 billion bribe).

Forming part of the campaigning strategy the party machine in Scotland spread the rumour that Scots Tories returned to Westminster would act as a party within a party, taking instructions from Ruth Davidson.

But that undertaking has proved to be yet another “pie in the sky” unfulfilled promise primarily due to the reality that Tory Unionist MP’s were elected to office without a workable manifesto.

There is the added fact that Ruth Davidson’s Scottish MP’s are obliged to work under the Whip system which demands absolute obedience from MP’s under threat of a removal of party support from any MP who might wish to abstain or vote against the government.

The concluding factor is Brexit. Very few elected politicians in Scotland, (including a significant number of Scottish Unionist MP’s) voted to leave the European Union but the entire block of Tory MP’s will be required to vote with the government in all events pertaining to Brexit. Hardly acceptable politics, MP’s voting against the wishes of their constituents.

 

 

1 Jan 2018: Scottish Tory Unionist MP’s Contrived Attempt to Muddy the Waters on Broadband Revealed As A Cynical Ploy To Cover Tory Government Failings (https://caltonjock.com/)

 

 

17 Jan 2018: Brexit

Scotland’s 13 Tory MPs chose pleasing Theresa May over standing up for their constituents when they voted for Whitehall’s “naked power grab” from Holyrood.

During the final stages of EU withdrawal Bill, the Tories refused to vote with all other Scottish MPs to back a Labour amendment which would have meant powers repatriated from Brussels after Brexit would have come to Scotland. (The National)

 

 

Scottish Tory MP’s vote to carry on with wage repression and increased austerity measures

The Tory government defeated a Labour Party amendment to the Queen’s Speech calling for an end to cuts to the police and the fire service, the end of the 1% public sector pay cap and to give emergency and public services a fair pay rise by 323 to 309 votes.

Northern Ireland’s 10 DUP MP’s despite speaking out against austerity before the election agreed to vote with Conservative MP’s to give Theresa May the majority she needed after she agreed a £1.5billion bung to Northern Ireland to win their votes.

There was much criticism from bodies representing Britain’s 5 million emergency and public services staff of the government’s refusal to rethink public sector cuts after their response to recent terrorist events and the courage of firefighters who risked their lives in the Grenfell Tower blaze.

Especially after Theresa May told a nurse on BBC Question Time that there is “no magic money tree” for a pay rise to stop nurses having to turn to food banks and pay day loans in the run up to her snap election, before agreeing to part with £1.5billion in return for DUP support.

The 13 Scottish MP’s should have abstained since the business had no direct impact on Scotland but they voted with the government against the amendment. So much for independent thinking.

Andrew C Bowie (Conservative – West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine)
Colin Clark (Conservative – Gordon)
David Duguid (Conservative – Banff and Buchan)
Luke Graham (Conservative – Ochil and South Perthshire)
Bill Grant (Conservative – Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock)
Kirstene Hair (Conservative – Angus)
Mr Alister Jack (Conservative – Dumfries and Galloway)
Stephen Kerr (Conservative – Stirling)
John Lamont (Conservative – Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk)
Paul Masterton (Conservative – East Renfrewshire)
David Mundell (Conservative – Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale)
Douglas Ross (Conservative – Moray)
Ross Thomson (Conservative – Aberdeen South)

 

 

 

4 Dec 2017: Gordon MP Colin Clark took time out to volunteer during a collection for the Trussell Trust foodbank.

The Scottish Conservative MP joined local councillor Lesley Berry and others at the Inverurie Tesco on Harlaw Road. Speaking afterwards, Mr Clark said: “Local people from Inverurie and the surrounding area gave very generously.

We collected a lot of tinned and non-perishable food. “The Trussell Trust provide a fantastic service, which is so important at this colder time of year as we approach Christmas. “Having met with Trussell Trust in the past, foodbanks provide a safety net and often help people engage with the relevant authorities. “We spend a lot of time doing constituency casework helping people who are finding the welfare system complicated. “Trussell Trust provide for many of those people in crisis and emergency situations.”

The Trussell Trust is a poverty charity that relies heavily on volunteers. More than 40,000 people across the UK volunteered with a foodbank over the past year, helping to get food to people in crisis. (Inverurie Herald)

Comment: Bloody cheek. It is Tory Party welfare cuts that have driven many people to despair as without funds they need to seek the assistance of charities.

 

 

 

 

18 Dec 2017: Colin Clark’s voting record in Parliament

Colin Clark, Conservative MP, votes the same way as other Conservative MPs. He has never rebelled against his party in the current parliament.

 

 

 

17 Jan 2018: Debate in the House of Commons – Cancer Treatment Policy

Henry Smith Tory MP for Crawley – Like many people in this room today, I have lost a family member to blood cancer. Five and a half years ago, my mother died from acute myeloid leukaemia, also known as AML, an extremely short time after diagnosis.With conditions such as AML, there is an incredibly short time—sometimes just a matter of days—between being diagnosed and this form of blood cancer taking a life.

A report has been published with a focus on the implementation of the cancer strategy for England, but committee members are keen to learn from examples of good practice in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Colin Clark Tory & Unionist MP for Gordon – In 2015 in the Grampian NHS Board area, which includes my constituency of Gordon, there were 265 new diagnoses of leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma, forming one in every 12 diagnoses in the area that year. In the same year, 106 lives in the Grampian area were taken by these cancers. It is crucial that we leave no stone unturned in the fight against blood cancers.

That includes research and development, on which the UK Government have a strong record that I very much hope will continue. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the dedicated staff of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, which serves my constituency. The work of the staff in its oncology department is second to none and has saved countless lives over the years.

The start of treatment in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary’s new state-of-the-art radiotherapy department in 2014 was a welcome step forward in the treatment of blood cancers and other cancers in the north-east of Scotland. The new building enabled the team to deliver new techniques and new forms of therapy to more and more patients—a development that can only be good.

 

Across Scotland, vacancy rates for consultants and nurses are disappointingly high, However, as with Her Majesty’s Government, budgets are constrained and oncology at the ARI has not been spared, unfortunately, from long-running staff shortages. For a department that treats cancer patients not just in Gordon but across the north-east of Scotland and even further afield, that is obviously very concerning.

With 400 consultant posts now unfilled. Shortages are damaging. NHS staff and patients must have the security of knowing that their local oncology department is, and always will be, adequately staffed and given the support that it deserves.

Comment: Clark could not resist show-boating. His contribution to the debate was confined to repeating Tory party dogma always critical of the SNP government regardless of truth or a comparison of facts with the NHS in England, on staffing.

Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Health) – In Scotland, there is the new medicines fund and in England there is the cancer drugs fund, a slight downside to which is that it is only for cancer. That might not be a problem for the patients that we are concerned about in this debate, but it is for people with some other diseases.

However, the fund plays a role for drugs that have not yet reached the point of being passed by NICE, but for which some hope is felt. There was obviously great anxiety when seven key treatments were removed from the cancer drugs fund a few years ago.

Something else that happened a few years ago was that a limit started to be put on the holy grail treatment of bone marrow and stem cell transplant, in that patients with a recurrence were not given the opportunity for a second transplant between the summer of 2016 and the spring of 2017, because that was no longer being commissioned.

Politicians and those high up in organisations such as NHS England need to be conscious that trying to balance the books may pull the rug from underneath people. The gap of three quarters of a year will have been catastrophic for some people who might have benefited. That must be recognised when decisions are made.

In the Scottish NHS, we do not have mechanisms such as 100-days commissioning, and hearing about it highlights to me how time, energy and people are wasted in trying to knit together a system that has become fragmented. For the cancer nurse specialists or doctors to have to try to plug a gap, or for patients to fall through the gap because, as was said in one briefing, there are CCGs and commissioning groups that do not even know they are responsible for commissioning that care after the 100 days, is a waste.

I spent more than 30 years working as a breast cancer surgeon and I would not want to have to waste clinical time in trying to deal with the gaps between stools. I think that the friction between what NHS England commissions and what CCGs are responsible for must be looked at.

Data and the auditing of performance are important for driving through the improvement of any service. I do not mean such things as waiting times, on which we all collect data, but actual clinical standards—how someone is treated and what we would expect. What would all the clinicians in the area think was good practice? I do not mean shutting things down, or units being threatened by the Care Quality Commission.

Having developed the breast cancer standards in Scotland in 2000, I can say that sitting in a room with all the breast teams of Scotland and looking at the data in a big PowerPoint on the wall is a dynamic tool for getting people to change practice. No one goes to work wanting to be the worst team in their country, region or area. Having access to actual clinical data is a great driver of quality.

In England, work is being done on setting up cancer dashboards for the four commonest cancers. In Scotland, we have them for the 11 commonest cancers. We have had Scotland-wide breast cancer data since 2003. I have seen the quality go up simply from our all meeting every year, looking at the data and challenging each other and discussing the data—and sharing solutions.

Whatever problem a unit faces—whatever the reason for their performance going down—someone else in the room will have had that problem before, and solved it. Such peer review and sharing of practice drives things forward. One of our big hopes for the cancer alliances is that they will redevelop what existed in cancer networks, which we still use in Scotland: people meet, support each other, and share practice.

The importance of research has been mentioned. As a great believer in the European Union and the things that we have gained from it, I am anxious about our leaving the European Medicines Agency, about the loss of its support mechanism on rare diseases, and about the possibility that we will be outside the clinical trials regulation system, which is designed vastly to reduce the paperwork involved in taking research forward in a clinical trial.

In the end, what we want to come from research is new treatment—new drugs. The UK is dynamic in the life sciences and the development of new pharmaceuticals, but the rather bizarre thing is that often our doctors do not get to use them. For people working in hospitals, that is getting to be a negative feedback loop. We do not get paid extra if we put patients into trials.

There is an enormous amount of paperwork, and people inevitably stay well after time to make sure that things function. If suddenly at the end of the trial period, when they might be getting the drug funded, they cannot get access to the drug for several years, until it gets through NICE in England or the Scottish Medicines Consortium, those people feel, “Who is gaining? It is not my patients.” The full debate can be found here. (https://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2018-01-17a.358.4&s=speaker%3A25678#g368.1)

Comment: A marked difference. Philippa provided informed comment explaining the different and more effective cancer treatment policies in place in Scotland.

 

 

10 Jan 2018: Gatwick Airport noise

Thomas Tugendhat Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee – I beg to move, that this House has considered growth and noise reduction in Gatwick Airport. The issue of aircraft noise is incredibly important to me, and I am afraid that many in the Chamber will have heard me speak about it many times. Indeed, I have received more correspondence on this issue than on any other since I was elected.

That is unsurprising for those of us who live under the flightpath in the beautiful villages of west Kent, which are the most beautiful in England, as we all know—I declare an interest because our home is there. The impact of aviation noise on the economic prosperity and environmental sustainability of our communities has been severe.

Colin Clark Conservative, Gordon – I will just say how important the south-east airports are to the regional airports and how important economically the south-east airports are to Aberdeen. I know that he will visit the north-east soon, so today I will highlight the heliport at Aberdeen.

During his campaigning on noise, I would also like him to emphasise the issue of helicopters, because, as he is well aware, helicopters dwell, as opposed to just flying in on a flight-line.

The residents of Dyce, near Aberdeen International airport, are blighted by the noise from helicopters. I would be very grateful if he could remember helicopters as well as fixed-wing aircraft.

Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch – Order. This is a debate on a narrow subject—growth and noise reduction at Gatwick airport. Okay?

Comment: Clark just cannot resist broadcasting the negative regardless of the relevance of the content.

 

 

10 Jan 2018: House of Commons Prime minister’s Question Time

Colin Clark Conservative, Gordon – Does the Prime Minister welcome the findings of the Social Research survey (http://natcen.ac.uk/media/1528078/NatCen-What-Scotland-Makes-Of-Brexit.pdf) that the majority of Scots believe that the rules on trade and immigration should be the same in Scotland as in the rest of the UK? It looks like they agree that we are better together.

Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party – My hon. Friend has raised a very important point. People across the UK want to see controlled immigration—that is people in Scotland as well as people in the rest of the United Kingdom.

As we leave the European Union, we will be able to introduce our own immigration rules and to control that immigration to Britain from Europe. The only point of differentiation is that, of course, we do have a Scotland-only shortage occupation list to recognise the particular labour market needs in Scotland.

For the most part, that actually matches the UK-wide shortage occupation list, which shows that this is an issue for the whole of the UK, and that we need the same policy approach.

Comment: A planted question for Theresa May advertising publication of the report, the views and opinions of which contained in the report are those only of Prof John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University. Clark was selective in deciding the question for the Prime Minister highlighting a comment positive for the Tory government. He ignored comments on Agriculture and Fishing which indicated over 60% of the Scottish electorate wished both to be devolved.

18 Jan 2018: Debates in the Commons – Clark participated in 49 debates. Full details to be found here: (https://www.theyworkforyou.com/search/?pid=25678&pop=1#n4)

 

Scottish Tory Unionist MP’s Contrived Attempt to Muddy the Waters on Broadband Revealed As A Cynical Ploy To Cover Tory Government Failings

 

 

 

Development of Broadband in Scotland

The subject has been heavily politicised by Tory MP’s recently elected to represent Scottish communities, leading to a huge amount of hot air and misinformation.

The purpose of this article is to highlight aspects of a number of debates at Westminster and in the press. References and dates are provided so that readers can access full scripts of meetings so that they will be able to assess the correctness of the extensive paraphrasing of various statements.

 

 

 

26 Oct 2017: Theresa May Attacks Scotland’s Broadband Coverage

There were red faces for the Tories, in the Commons yesterday after Theresa May attacked the Scottish Government over superfast broadband roll-out, an issue that’s wholly reserved to the Westminster Government.

During Prime Minister’s Questions, Tory MP Luke Graham attacked the Scottish Government for not doing enough to get superfast broadband out to householders.

He said: “As of 2016, 17 per cent of the premises of in Scotland were without superfast broadband. This is compared with just 11 per cent for the UK as a whole.”

Graham then asked the Prime Minister to join with him in “calling on the Scottish Government to do more and to constructively engage with departments in Westminster to deliver this crucial service to communities in Scotland”.

The Prime Minister replied: “Can I say to my honourable friend, I think we all recognise the importance of broadband and fast broadband being available to people in our constituencies. It is for the Scottish Government to deliver this. (The National)

Comment: The Scottish Government had to intervene, given the importance of high quality broadband to the economy and the Westminster Government’s “lack of ambition” rolling out broadband access across Scotland’s widespread rural areas.

 

Matthew Hancock

 

 

16 November 2017: Westminster Debates: Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Digital Infrastructure Investment

Colin Clark: Does the Minister agree that it is vital that the Westminster Government should invest in digital infrastructure if productivity is to be improved, particularly in rural areas like Gordon in northern Scotland ?

The constituency which I represent is a big part of Aberdeenshire, but is rated 613th for broadband performance in Scotland. That is disappointing for constituents and disastrous for business.

Matthew Hancock The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport: Absolutely. The Westminster Government is ensuring that we roll out the current generation of technology.

In terms of the next generation of technology the Westminster Government will deal directly with local representatives and authorities in Scotland by-passing the Scottish Government, because the Westminster Government intend to control the agenda for telecoms change ensuring networking upgrading is prioritised in areas suited to the political climate at that time.

Comment: Scots be fore-warned. The Thatcher-like asset stripping “agenda” that will follow Brexit will render a government in Scotland null and void with consequences. (theyworkforyou)

 

Mundell

 

 

22 November 2017: Westminster Debates: Rural Communities in Scotland: Broadband

John Lamont MP: BT and “Openreach” are not without blame.

Following negotiations and demands from Ofcom, “Openreach” is now a legally separate entity, but it is still wholly owned by BT’s parent holding company, BT Group plc.

The situation we find ourselves in, in Scotland, with a massive digital divide between urban and rural, has been entirely created by historical decisions made by the Westminster Government centralised control and direction of BT.

Had BT been instructed to invest in Scotland’s network in the way that it should have, both governments would not be facing these difficult challenges today.

BT has been permitted by the Westminster government to systematically pick off the low-hanging fruit in broadband roll-out, focusing it attention on cities and commercially viable areas to the exclusion of the much harder-to-get residents in Scotland’s rural communities because of the additional costs it would incur and which the Westminster Government would not finance.

By design the Westminster Government has forced many rural communities in Scotland to look at self-help options to find solutions for their poor broadband connections when “Openreach” has refused to help. Scots are innovative and smart, but many have struggled with the bureaucracy of the schemes and the cost involved.

Ofcom’s December 2016 report, “Connected Nations”, which has been referred to, describes the urban-rural divide well, states:

“While 89% of premises in the United Kingdom can receive superfast broadband, there are 1.4 million premises that cannot get download speeds greater than 10 megabits per second. Those are disproportionately in rural areas, and the problem is particularly bad in Scotland.”

Comment: The vast bulk of rural areas are in Scotland and they have suffered greatly from many decades of under investment by the Westminster government. Rural communities in the Scottish Borders and in the Highlands need to be given an increased broadband development priority fully financed by the Westminster controlled “Openreach” corporation. (theyworkforyou)

 

Fergus Ewing

 

 

01 Dec 2017: Setting the record straight on broadband in Scotland – By Fergus Ewing Msp

Scottish Conservative MPs at Westminster have spent the past weeks spreading misinformation on the facts of broadband in Scotland culminating in this letter to the First Minister:

Dear First Minister,

Over the last week, you have made a number of remarks regarding the roll-out of broadband in Scotland. Ultimately, we are all in agreement that the priority is people having the decent broadband connections they need, because we know that broadband is not a luxury; it is crucial for businesses and individuals across Scotland. However, we have serious concerns about the speed of broadband roll-out in Scotland and your Government has questions to answer. To be clear, we are not disputing what you have done. We are criticising what you have not done.

In 2014, the UK Government allocated over £20m for Phase 2 of the superfast broadband roll-out to the Scottish Government, designed to deliver superfast broadband coverage to 95% of UK premises by the end of 2017. Three years later, not only has your Government failed to deliver this roll-out, it has failed to start procurement for it.

As MPs in Westminster, broadband is one of the issues raised most consistently by our constituents, especially for those of us representing rural seats. So we would be grateful if you could provide us with answers to these straightforward questions:

First, why have some English local authorities not only contracted the second phase. but have moved onto the third, before the Scottish Government have even got started procuring Phase 2

Second, do you accept that Scotland is behind every single English local authority, the Welsh Government and Northern Ireland in its approach to Phase 2

Third, can you confirm that every local authority region in Scotland will see new broadband delivery in both 2018 and 2019? We look forward to a Swift response.

You have spoken of the Scottish Governments ambition on broadband. This is to be welcomed and targets such as R100 are laudable. But the time of promises is over – we need to see delivery so that the people of Scotland get the broadband they need. We are copying this letter to the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Minister for Digital, and your Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity.

Letter signed by Tory MP’s: Alistair Jack, Andrew Bowie, Colin Clark, Stephen Kerr, John Lamont, David Duguid, Paul Masterton, Bill Grant, Kirstene Hair and Ross Thomson.

 

 

The Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary responsible for digital connectivity, Fergus Ewing MSP, responded to their comments and set the record straight: Superfast broadband availability in Scotland has increased at a faster rate than other UK nations. He wrote.

Dear Members of Parliament:

There has been a great deal of misinformation from the UK Government on broadband delivery in Scotland in recent weeks. I am delighted, therefore, to take this opportunity to set the record straight, by answering the three questions outlined in your letter.

 

 

1. Why have some English local authorities not only contracted the second phase but have moved onto the third, before the Scottish Government have even got started procuring Phase 2?

The short answer is we didn’t choose to do DSSB in phases. English local authority projects were of a far smaller scale than our Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) programme and required additional phases.

Rather than taking forward 32 individual local authority-led procurements, we took the joint decision with local government partners, and the UK Government, that we would aggregate public investment across two regional projects in Scotland. This created a scale that has dwarfed any other project in the UK, extending broadband access to over 800,000 premises across Scotland so far, with further deployment to follow throughout 2018.

The success of this approach, and the resultant scale of our ‘Phase 1’ project, removed the need to progress a Scottish ‘Phase 2’ project in a similar timescale to other parts of the UK. In effect, the DSSB programme is Phases 1, 2 and 3 rolled into one.

The idea that Scotland is behind the rest of the UK simply because we haven’t yet launched a second procurement is laughable. The DSSB programme was constructed to avoid the need for successive small-scale procurements.

The success of this approach is demonstrated by the coverage figures. The most recent Ofcom data shows that Scotland has made the fastest progress of any of the UK nations in extending superfast access.

Now that the coverage footprint of DSSB is known, it makes sense to launch a new procurement, which we will do in the coming weeks. Crucially, we are doing this to deliver our commitment to 100% superfast broadband access by 2021 – a commitment that does not exist anywhere else in the UK.

 

 

2. Do you accept that Scotland is behind every single English local authority, the Welsh Government and Northern Ireland in its approach to Phase 2?

I completely reject this claim. As outlined above, the DSSB programme has delivered more than any other Phase 1 project anywhere in the UK. It will continue deployment throughout 2018, at which point the new Reaching 100% (R100) programme will kick in.

Prior to our intervention, broadband coverage in Scotland had lagged behind the rest of the UK for a variety of reasons, including the challenging nature of our geography, low population density and the regulatory environment. The scale of investment delivered through DSSB, and the speed at which it has deployed, has seen Scotland close the gap on catch the rest of the UK in coverage terms.

As noted above, the latest Ofcom figures demonstrate this: superfast broadband coverage in Scotland increased by 14% over the previous 12 months – the largest increase of any of the UK nations; and that percentage coverage in Scotland is now higher than in many English local authorities.

We are now ready to launch the R100 programme; but it is important to understand that the R100 programme is not equivalent to the Phase 2 projects progressed elsewhere in the UK. It will deliver superfast access to every premise in Scotland. No other part of the UK has made such a commitment.

The UK Government appears happy to stop at 95% superfast coverage across the UK and consign those in the most rural areas to the slow-lane in terms of speeds, either through a 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation or by seeking a hastily constructed deal with BT to deliver something similar.

I wholeheartedly agree with John Lamont, who argued in the recent Westminster Hall debate on broadband, that the UK Government should have set the broadband USO at a higher speed than 10Mbps.

The Scottish Government does not believe that 10Mbps is acceptable for rural Scotland; which is why we will invest to ensure that 30Mbps is available to every home and business.

It is deeply unfortunate that the UK Government, which has the power to set a superfast USO or to invest directly in high-speed infrastructure across all of the UK, have chosen to do neither.

I would hope that the leadership shown by the Scottish Government would be welcomed by all Scottish MPs and, indeed, that you will urge the UK Government to match the ambition that we are showing in what is, of course, a reserved area.

 

The three amigo’s

 

3. Can you confirm that every local authority region in Scotland will see new broadband delivery in both 2018 and 2019?

The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) programme will continue to deliver throughout 2018, utilising Gainshare and other residual funds within both contracts, and this will extend into every local authority area.

We will formally launch the R100 procurement process in the coming weeks. This procurement will take place in parallel with continuing DSSB delivery through Gainshare, and we expect that R100 deployment will be underway across all of Scotland in 2019.

The truth is that the Scottish Government, and our local authority partners, have developed an enviable delivery track record on broadband in recent years. The DSSB programme has delivered broadband access at a scale unmatched anywhere else in the UK.

800,000 premises and counting now have broadband available as a result of our investment. Audit Scotland has recognised the success of the programme and Ofcom figures demonstrate that the coverage gap has been closed.

It is hugely unfortunate that a new intake of Scottish MPs appear intent on overlooking the facts, and underplaying what has been a success story for Scotland. This should be an opportunity for us to celebrate the success of the DSSB programme – a joint investment between our two Governments – and to collectively turn our attention to finishing the job through the R100 programme.

Instead, the UK Government has committed just £20.99 million to the programme – less than the amount allocated to Devon and Somerset for a less ambitious programme, and substantially less than the Scottish Government’s planned investment. Persuading UK Ministers to address this disparity in funding would seem to me to be a far more fruitful use of your time at Westminster than parroting baseless and false claims about broadband delivery in Scotland. I trust this response sets the record straight. (Fergus Ewing)

 

 

 

21 Dec 2017: Full Fibre & 5G Broadband – Questions Answered in the Commons 

The Minister for Digital (Matt Hancock): The Westminster Government will control the implementation of the new full fibre and the 5G programme directly through local representatives and authorities to ensure efficient delivery.

Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP): Scottish Tory Back Bencher’s are agreed that clause 11 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is flawed and amounts to a power grab. Is the Westminster Government’s ill-judged proposals for broadband not the same, and is it not time that the Minister worked with the Scottish Government instead of trying to bypass them?

Mrs Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (Con): My constituency of North Northumberland is on the southern side of the border, (just a line on a map as far as my constituents are concerned). The entire community (despite implementation of broadband being devolved to local authorities) is still struggling to get the broadband it needs and many of my small villages are cut off. Will the Minister commit that, in 2018, we will see progress in the rural communities in England?

Matt Hancock: The Westminster Government controls all aspects of telecommunications in the UK and is increasingly mindful of the need to ensure delivery of acceptable levels of broadband to the rural communities of Northern England and in the Borders of Scotland.

Brendan O’Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP): In this the season of good will, will the Minister join me in congratulating the Scottish Government following last week’s announcement that, despite it being a reserved ​matter, they are to invest £600 million in rolling out 30 megabit superfast broadband across Scotland, with priority given to rural Scotland, thereby making Scotland a truly world-class digital nation by 2021?

Matt Hancock: I will certainly join the hon. Gentleman in wishing a merry Christmas to everybody in the Scottish National Party and the SNP Government in Scotland. (Hansard)

Comment:

Matt Hancock MP, UK Minister for Digital evidently needs to justify the Westminster Government’s ill judged decision to deny the Scottish Government any input to the development of 5G networking. On 23 Oct 2017 he was quoted saying:

“I’m delighted that more than 800,000 Scottish homes and businesses have now had their internet speeds boosted as part of our UK wide rollout of superfast broadband. By the end of this year 95 per cent of UK properties will have access to superfast speeds, but more needs to be done to make sure no-one is left behind. We know just how important broadband is in the digital age, and we’ll continue to support Digital Scotland delivering on the ground so that by 2020 everyone in Scotland will have access to a fast, reliable and affordable internet connection.” (ispreview)

The contribution of Mrs Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (Con) was significant since it revealed the duplicity of the Westminster Government’s claims to be more efficient at rolling out broadband to rural communities than the Scottish Government

 

 

23 Sep 2015: Clark Integrated Computers – Turrif and Fyvie

Austen and Graham Clark are brother’s of the recently elected MP for the Gordon constituency Colin.

Whilst wealthy Colin remained in farming and other business, including politics, in his spare time, his brothers established their own computer support company based in the former Towie Tavern between Turrif and Fyvie.

A very real success story the award winning firm delivers a wide range of information and communications technology products and services to clients throughout Scotland and beyond through strategic partnerships with vendors such as Cisco, Microsoft, HP, Dell and Apple.

Asked why the brothers built an IT company in the middle of the Aberdeenshire countryside the response from Austen was:

“A rural location was not without its challenges but a 100 megabit per second fibre optical cable running past the front door, easier access to routes north and the very nature of the business meant that Towie Tavern was as good as any other location. It is also easier to get to for most of our staff who must be glad they don’t have to commute to and from traffic congested Aberdeen every day.”

The company aims to double the size of its business over the next 3 to 5 years as technological advances continue to be developed at a rapid pace.

The full article can be found here: http://www.pressreader.com/uk/the-press-and-journal-aberdeen/20150923/282351153575701

Comment: Well, well. Over 2 years ago Colin Clark’s brothers were so enamoured with the 100 megabit per second high speed connection available, out in the sticks in Turrif and Fyvie that they started their computer business in that rural part of the Gordon constituency. But brother Colin is so besotted with Tory Party dogma and following the party line that he sees fit to stand up in Westminster and blaming the Scottish Government for failing to roll-out broadband in Scotland’s rural communities well realising that he is talking absolute twaddle.