News Column

Independence would improve phone and postal links, say SNP

July 15, 2014

Andrew Whitaker

THE Scottish Government is facing calls to launch an immediate plan to improve mobile phone access and postal services in remote areas, after ministers pledged to set up a commission to boost "connectivity" under independence.A new paper from officials highlighted problems with broadband, mobile phone and postal services in remote areas as it outlined benefits which leaving the UK could bring.An independent Scotland would gain new powers which would ensure the "maximum availability of mobile telecoms throughout the country, including our rural areas," the paper from civil servants stated.Digital broadband services could be extended while "fairer prices" for postal services could be another benefit.The paper went on to state that the "right policy support in an independent Scotland - based around the continuation of the GB-wide electricity market and a fairer transmission charging regime - has the potential to have a transformational impact on the rural communities where developments take place".Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged to launch a new commission after a Yes vote to look at connectivity issues - including how best to harness the power of renewable energy often generated in rural areas.However, opposition parties claimed the Scottish government could use existing powers to deliver improvements.Labour MSP James Kelly said: "People don't want vague promises of new commissions, they want improved services and the Scottish Government should use the powers they already have to improve the lives of people in rural areas now."Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott said: "People in rural areas will take these latest promises with a very substantial pinch of salt."Ms Sturgeon, speaking in Wick last night, said the extra European cash for an independent Scotland's agriculture industry could lead to a jobs boost.The Scottish government believes Scotland would have benefited from an extra 3.5 billion euros (GBP2.79 billion) if it had been independent when farm funding payments and rural funding were determined.Ms Sturgeon said this cash could have helped support an additional 5,500 jobs and boosted the economy by GBP1.7 billion from 2014 to 2020. She added: "The UK government condemned Scotland to the lowest payment rates in Europe."

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Source: Scotsman, The (Scotland)

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