THE chief executive of broadband infrastructure provider Openreach believes Scotland has one of the most ambitious plans in Europe to provide better connection speeds to its population and businesses.

Liv Garfield, who heads up BT's local network division, told The Herald procurement frameworks to provide high-speed fibre broadband to more than 90% of the people living in Scotland should be applauded and could be a "game changer for economic recovery".

She cited Cornwall, which already has a number of fibre connections, as a good example of an area where SMEs and larger businesses -– particularly those in the technology or online sectors – are already exploiting the benefits of faster broadband.

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The fibre network being built in the UK will be able to offer speeds of up to 330 mega bits per second (mbps) for business and 80mbps for consumers. The average is currently around 9mbps.

Ms Garfield said: "The Scottish Government has potentially the most ambitious plan of any government in Europe.

"It has said, 'let's not sit on our laurels' and has two ambitious procurements going on: Highlands and Islands and one for all of Scotland.

"The ambition is to see whether we can get to more than 90% of everyone living in Scotland having access to fibre.

"I would say that if you live in Scotland you have got a really good chance of having access to something which will be a game changer for economic recovery, social awareness and even just social behaviour in terms of networking, and it is not that far away."

Colin Borland, the Federation of Small Businesses' (FSB) head of external affairs in Scotland, said: "Access to fast, reliable broadband is increasingly important to Scottish small businesses.

"The ambition of the Scottish Government's broadband plans is not in doubt.

"However, their approach, in part, relies upon individual communities' initiative and motivation to develop their own next generation access proposals.

"This is a break from the usual approach we adopt for any other sort of infrastructure upgrade, which is strategically planned and rolled out.

"Thus, there are some doubts about whether this approach will deliver the right level of service across Scotland."

Ms Garfield also confirmed that Openreach, which employs about 2500 people in Scotland, expects to have fibre broadband available to more than 50% of the Scottish population by the end of 2014 as part of its £2.5 billion commercial roll-out across the UK.

She said: "We are committed to roll out to two-thirds of the UK by 2014, and that remains on track.

"In Scotland it is not a completely identical roll out as with more rural locations it is trickier to roll out so you tend to find the percentages differ.

"We are making good progress in Scotland with quite a few hundred thousand homes now able to buy the service.

"In the next two years I would give a guesstimate that more than 50% of people living in Scotland would have access by the end of 2014."

However, Ms Garfield, who has been in charge of Openreach since April 2011, did admit there were major challenges in connecting rural and remote areas, particularly in the Highlands and Islands.

She said: "For the latest design we are discussing with Highlands and Islands Enterprise we have to do 20 subsea cables, but there is actually only one window in the year when you can lay subsea cables.

"So you have more of them and there are nuances around it.

"In terms of scale. Highlands and Islands is equivalent to Belgium so it is a pretty large land mass.

"Probably 500 kilometres of fibre need to be laid just in terms of spines before you get on to connecting anyone from the cabinet to their house.

"It is a big gig. When they were choosing to fibre Belgium they did it over a longer period of time."

An Ofcom Communications Market Report for Scotland released in July reported 68% of homes in Scotland have access to broadband of some form.