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Scotland to set up a Rural Connectivity Commission [DDA News]


Post-independence pledge to examine communications and transport

by Charles Gladwin
24th  of July 2014
The government of an independent Scotland will set up a commission to improve rural communities' broadband and mobile coverage, postal services and transport links.
In addition, the commission will work in "a new Scottish regulatory landscape" to ensure utilities are sustainable and that markets operate in the long term interests of all customers.
The proposal is included in the constitutional paper ‘Connecting Rural Scotland' published last week. It describes how the commission will look at the ways in which rural communities and business can have "a better deal" while also "ensuring clarity for industry and stability for investors."
Announcing the document, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "Too often people who live outside urban areas are poorly served by the market and the UK Government when it comes to services vital in the 21st century. With independence, we will have the powers to regulate these crucial services and to remove barriers which are holding back rural areas from achieving their full potential."
The paper sets out five areas where it argues independence would improve rural connectivity:
  • IT - mobile telecoms and broadband licences "could include coverage obligations that ensure maximum availability of mobile telecoms throughout Scotland as a whole."
  • Postal costs - ensuring fairer costs and that the Universal Service Obligation is maintained.
  • Fuel prices and energy bills - a Fuel Duty Regulator mechanism could be introduced to stabilise prices, and the costs of the Warm Homes Discount and Energy Company Obligation (ECO) would be removed.
  • Transport links - including continuation of the investment in rail, as well as the eventual removal of the Air Passenger Duty (APD) by 50 per cent.
  • Rural renewables - island and mainland coastal communities would receive 100% of all leasing revenues from activities in their adjacent waters.