Scottish SMEs negatively impacted by poor broadband connectivity

According to research conducted by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), nearly 50 per cent of small businesses in the rural parts of Scotland are negatively affected by poor broadband connectivity.

The CAS report found that a third of all small-medium enterprises across Scotland suffered from poor internet connectivity, with the figure rising to 45 per cent for those in rural locations.

Director of policy at the National Farmers’ Union of Scotland (NFUS), Jonnie Hall, said: “These results don’t come as a surprise to the NFUS but they must come as a wake-up call to those charged with delivering robust and reliable services and connectivity in Scotland’s rural communities.”

He argued that the “digital by default” attitude was a real concern for farmers and crofters, as applications for investment and VAT returns have gradually become an online ordeal. Broadband connectivity was therefore a vital requirement for such members in rural locations, especially if they could not access post offices and banks due to distance or closures as a result of increasing digitalisation.

“It should be apparent to all that the rural economy is most dependent on accessible and effective services and infrastructure. As we seek to innovate and diversify Scotland’s rural economy, that cannot be thwarted by a decline in service provision and substandard connectivity.

“Similarly, access to reliable broadband is vital to allow our farmers and crofters to make the most of new technologies and smart farming and to tap into the growing volume of information and advice now available to them on the web,” claimed Hall.

The CAS report verifies the need for Scottish SMEs to support and boost economic growth, and makes a number of suggestions for improvement. Amongst instating a legal telecommunications consumer advocate and keeping the current postal system as it is, it calls for “rural proofing” to boost internet connectivity in rural areas.

Chief executive of CAS, Derek Mitchell, said: “To flourish in more remote areas [SMEs] require good digital connectivity and an effective postal system […] that are reliable, efficient and affordable.”