SCOTLAND is set to have full fibre to every home and business in the country by 2027 and direct international 5G connections beyond London under plans unveiled today.

The recommendations are set out by the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland in its first 30-year strategy for the Scottish Government, the blueprint for delivering an "inclusive, net zero carbon economy".

Ian Russell, commission chair, said that while the report covers the long term, action should be taken now as "there is an urgency" to move to reach a series of recommended targets.

These also include plans for upgrading the public estate, re-prioritising the use of roads towards modes including electric public transport and cycling, and replacing the country's two million gas boilers.


A second phase covering delivery will consider proposals for a Scottish National Infrastructure Company.

It also recommended much greater participation of the public so "short and long term outcome trade-offs are effectively debated, understood and taken into consideration".

READ MORE: Scotland ‘on cusp of superfast revolution’

The report says Holyrood "should provide the leadership required to ensure the delivery of a full fibre network for Scotland by 2027 to enable the transition to 5G across the whole of Scotland".

It comes after The Herald highlighted new approaches being considered to take connectivity to every corner of Scotland as soon as possible.

This includes plans to bring "shared spectrums" into operataion that could link communities beyond the superfast network - 30megabits per second - towards ultrafast - 100mbps - and top-end full fibre levels of 1000mbps, or one gigabit.

It was revealed the University of Strathclyde is working the Scottish Government to test a rural business model similar to profit-making community windfarm co-operatives.

Scott McEwan, chief executive of Boston Networks, the company that has made Scotland's Internet of Things network the most advanced in the UK, said earlier in the series that stop-gap connectivity would be required before the full fibre revolution is complete.

Companies including Openreach, Nokia and CityFibre have signalled the importance of collaboration on the huge task.

In the third part of our digital connectivity series today, the long-term future is now mapped out.

Mr Russell said: "We are recommending full fibre across Scotland to premises.

"One of our reasons for recommending that is that as we consulted and engaged around Scotland we found that a key driver that people were telling us would help with an inclusive economy was better digital connectivity.

"Clearly, on the back of that, 5G capability and that would lead to an opportunity for a data centre industry in Scotland and better international connectivity.

"Whereas at the moment we are connected only through London, Scotland should be connected by fibre-optic cable to other international centres."

READ MORE: Rural communities ‘to take superfast control’

The the scale of the job of upgrading Scotland's wider infrastructure, which will be done alongside digital, is also immense.

Mr Russell said: "There is an opportunity at all levels of the public sector in Scotland to future-proof our existing infrastructure, whether that is roads, or schools or whatever it may be, I think there is an opportunity to change the way we think about our investment in the infrastructure, and there is an urgency about this.

"The Scottish Government has set ambitious targets in the area of net zero carbon and is ambitious about inclusion in the economy, so whilst the report on the commission’s work is framed over a 30-year time horizon, actually it is quite important we start now.

"For example, if we are going to replace two million gas boilers, that is roughly 300 to 400 ever day in a five day week for the next 20 years, so we have got to get on with it.

"There is a terrific opportunity there from a jobs and skills point of view because there is a huge amount of work to be done.

"I think there is an urgency and there is a role for government in setting direction and setting a route map for how to approach this and enable the private sector, local authorities and individuals all to play their part."

READ MORE: Future-proof fibre comes to Scotland

The first publication of its kind in Scotland, the report was "profoundly influenced" by the global focus on climate change, together with Scottish Government’s own ambitious net zero carbon target by 2045.

Michael Matheson, cabinet secretary for infrastructure, said: “The value of investing in infrastructure goes beyond the physical homes, schools and hospitals we see in everyday life. If done well, it has the capacity to unlock economic potential, support jobs, and enable our businesses and communities to strengthen and grow."

Established less than a year ago to develop the blueprint, the ICS said it recognised net zero carbon and an inclusive growth economy as two overarching policies that were priorities on both a national and global scale.

It is also "marking a sharp shift from the overall policy convention of the last 50 years, which has broadly been aimed at maximising GDP".

The next stage of the ICS’ 18-month programme due later this year will see the commission provide guidance to Scottish Government on how best to deliver all 23 recommendations set out in the strategy.

READ MORE: Tax relief for internet firms to install fibre broadband 

Mr Russell added: " “While infrastructure investment remains a vital factor in supporting the economy and acting as an enabler to deliver effective public services, future infrastructure decisions should be based on their ability to clearly demonstrate their contribution to an inclusive, net zero carbon economy.

“We do not underestimate the nature and scale of the challenges facing future infrastructure decisions and recognise difficult decisions will need to be made. This will require bold and determined leadership from the Scottish Government.  

“However, this is not just a challenge for the public sector.

"Critically it is a call to everyone who plans, builds, invests in, owns, operates, regulates and, as importantly, uses Scotland’s infrastructure.

“If we can all embrace and build on the recommendations set out in this report, we can go a long way to turning an infrastructure vision for an inclusive, net zero carbon economy into a reality.”

Mr Matheson also said: “I’d like to thank the commission for submitting its report, following a twelve month process.  

“This advice will help shape how we plan to invest in Scotland’s infrastructure, recognising the long-term objectives of this Government to deliver an inclusive and net zero emissions economy.

“We will now take the time necessary to carefully consider the report before updating Parliament on how we plan to incorporate the recommendations into Scottish Government policy and the next Infrastructure Investment Plan.”

Brendan Dick, chair of the Openreach board in Scotland, said on Monday: “Having worked closely with the commission we welcome the report, which is ambitious for Scotland and sets out a long term vision for a truly smart and sustainable nation.

"We look forward to considering in detail what it means for Openreach and our vital role in delivering the network and engineering skills the country will need. We will continue to engage with the commission as its work progresses.”