Rural Connectivity Commission “good news for Galloway” says McLeod

SNP MSP for the South of Scotland Dr Aileen McLeod today Tuesday)
welcomed the announcement by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that
a Rural Connectivity Commission will be set up after independence to
consider how to improve issues such as mobile and broadband coverage,
postal services and transport links for rural communities.

According to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 40% of datazones
in Dumfries & Galloway fall within the 15% most “access deprived” across
the whole of Scotland. Access deprivation refers to an assessment
included in SIMD data of how difficult it is for residents in a datazone
to access basic services such as post offices, schools and GPs.

The Commission will examine issues such as mobile and broadband
coverage, postal services and transport links for rural communities.

Aileen commented:

“I very much welcome this announcement which confirms that, with
independence, the needs of rural Scotland will be very much to the fore.
Of course the issues this Commission will be established to examine are
currently reserved matters either all or in part – that’s why only the
full powers of independence will allow a Scottish Government to get to
grips with them.

“There are plenty of examples of reserved matters in which this region
has been left behind. For example many parts of Dumfries & Galloway
struggle to get 3G mobile services, or indeed any mobile phone reception
at all, while much of the UK is now enjoying 4G coverage.

“Although the Scottish Government and local authorities are investing in
next-generation broadband, mobile phone and other communications
networks remained reserved to Westminster.

“Similarly, both road fuel and household energy costs are higher in
Dumfries & Galloway even though the region has the lowest average wages
in Scotland. 40% of households in the region are assessed as being in
fuel poverty and again both issues are currently reserved matters.

“With the powers over these important areas in Scotland’s hands we can
act to overturn the deep-seated economic imbalances which hold back
rural Scotland and this region from achieving its real potential.

“With independence there are so many opportunities to change things for
the better and the announcement of this Commission is a clear statement
of intent that rural Scotland will be foremost amongst the beneficiaries.”

Notes to Editors:

The paper “Connecting Rural Scotland” can be found here:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2014/07/8193

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