Sparks fly online between Angus MP and First Minister over broadband

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Kirstene Hair and Nicola Sturgeon.

Angus MP Kirstene Hair and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon have taken to social media to fight out a spat over Scotland’s broadband speeds.

Ms Hair and north-east Conservative colleagues said a pledge from Prime Minister Theresa May that the next wave of broadband will be delivered by councils instead of the SNP Government was a welcome response to the “unacceptable” provision in many local constituencies.

High-speed broadband access targets were set by the UK Government in 2010, but money and responsibility for delivery was given to the Scottish Government.

In a Westminster debate, Minister of State for digital Matt Hancock said: “As a result of our experience of delivering superfast broadband through the Scottish Government thus far, we have decided that for the next generation of broadband technology, for fibre, we will instead deal directly with local authorities across Scotland as we do in England.”

After claiming the Scottish Government was failing Angus over broadband provision, Ms Hair was accused by the First Minister of showing “breathtaking ignorance of reality” as the two went to war on Twitter.

Ms Hair said Digital Scotland had failed to match the speeds of any English local authority area.

“Angus quite simply is being failed by the Scottish Government,” she said.

“They will of course explain it is nothing to do with them, until of course fibre is connected to a cabinet and the minister will race out with his team for a photo opportunity.”

Ms Hair posted a tweet saying: “Delighted that the Prime Minister confirmed that next stage of broadband roll out will bypass shambolic SNP Government and go straight to local authorities.”

In response, the First Minister said: “The ignorance of reality displayed by this tweet is quite breathtaking. @scotgov is going much further in broadband delivery than UK government – and will deliver in spite of any games they choose to play.”

The row continued with the Angus MP suggesting the First Minister was treating the issue as “a game”.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Any assertion that Scotland is behind the rest of the UK is completely untrue. This has been recognised by Ofcom and by independent analysts such as ThinkBroadband.

“Ofcom’s report stated that our Digital Scotland programme had increased coverage by 14% over the previous 12 months – the largest increase out of any of the UK nations.

“As a direct result of our investment, more than 800,000 premises now have access to fibre broadband, while we are on track to deliver 95% coverage by the end of this year.

“Moreover, this does not change our commitment to provide superfast coverage for 100% of Scottish properties – a target the UK Government have chosen not to match.”