SCOTLAND’S “patchwork” broadband connectivity is holding back businesses, it is claimed as a new study shows this country also lagging behind the US on internet speeds.

The Fair Internet Report found that at US median speeds of 83 Mbps were almost twice as fast as the UK at 43.6 Mbps and Scottish business leaders said more work needs to be done to bring broadband to businesses.

The Scottish Government “need to deliver on their promise” of better connectivity, said one business leader.

A voucher scheme set up to connect those outwith the immediate scope of either the Scottish Government contracts or planned commercial investment and target of Reaching 100 per cent (R100) of homes and businesses in Scotland with superfast broadband, most recently scheduled for the end 2021, is ongoing.

However, only 930 vouchers issued have led to installations out of an eligible 83,855 homes and businesses across the country, with a further 865 vouchers later issued on top of that. An additional 112,000 premises are still to be connected through contractors.

Even with this shortfall, the Scottish Government says it has reached its commitment, as vouchers are still available and work ongoing.

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Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said that access to fast and reliable internet connectivity is essential for Scotland’s businesses.

“The rise of on-line trading and the rapid expansion of flexible working models, spurred on by the pandemic, has made good connectivity more critical than ever to doing business, supporting productivity and driving growth," she said.

“However, the provision of fibre-broadband, 4G and 5G coverage across Scotland remains patchwork, holding back businesses, particularly in many rural, remote and coastal parts of Scotland where provision often remains sub-standard.”

The Herald: Contracted work is ongoing.Contracted work is ongoing.

She said: “The Scottish Government need to deliver on the promises of the R100 scheme and ensure superfast broadband connectivity to every home and business in Scotland as a priority.

“Businesses need to see government pull out all the stops to remove barriers to rollout, invest in deployment and work with providers to ensure that all parts of Scotland receive the coverage and speeds necessary for success.”

READ MORE: R100 delays bring 'open season' for smaller players in digital game

Stuart Mackinnon, of the federation of Small Businesses in Scotland, said: “Official data shows broadband and mobile coverage improving in Scotland, as it does elsewhere in the UK.

“However, that doesn’t prevent significant frustration from local businesses in areas with poor connectivity.

“This can, for example, have an impact of the output of businesses with remote staff, or make life difficult for retailers to adopt non-cash payment methods that need a digital connection.

“At the local community level, we’ve heard anecdotes of businesses and families being reluctant to move into areas where good mobile and broadband coverage isn’t assured.”

Richard Muir, deputy chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said: “There is no doubt much work is still to be done in rolling out 5G network coverage across Scotland.

“For Glasgow it is vital we have 5G city wide network coverage. More businesses are reliant on reliable and fast internet to not only make sales but to manage their day-to-day operations.

“The digital marketplace has created global competition and, for Glasgow businesses, having the advantage of reliable 5G connectivity allows for more efficient operations and increased productivity; growing their businesses internationally and bringing more jobs and investment to our city.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our Reaching 100% (R100) commitment has been achieved thanks to the £600 million R100 contracts, our R100 Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme and continued commercial coverage. Around 112,000 premises are expected to be connected through the R100 contracts.

"For those who will not benefit from the R100 contracts or commercial build, the R100 Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme - offering vouchers worth up to £5,000 - will ensure they have support to secure a superfast broadband connection.

“Through the Scottish 4G Infill programme, we are investing in future-proofed infrastructure to improve rural 4G mobile coverage, whilst working collaboratively with wider mobile initiatives to ensure maximum impact.

"Our investment of £28.75 million is now delivering future-proofed, 4G mobile infrastructure at up to 55 mobile 'notspots' – providing connectivity in remote rural and island areas ... 28 masts are now live and delivering 4G services, with more sites to go live in the coming months.”