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The Scottish Government and BT have announced a new £264 million investment in fast fibre broadband north of the border.

Hundreds of thousands of households and businesses across Scotland are set to benefit from the public/private investment, with small and medium-sized enterprises a particular focus for the rollout scheme.

According to BT, the new project will ensure that 85 per cent of Scottish properties have access to fibre broadband by the end of 2015. And two years later, this figure should have risen to around 95 per cent.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the announcement signals the start of "one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in the whole of Europe".

"It will connect communities across rural and urban areas, providing a platform for future economic development and regeneration," she stated.

"Next-generation broadband enables businesses to compete on the international stage. It has the potential to transform the way in which we educate our children, provide health and social care, and deliver our public services.

"It provides Scotland with a platform upon which we can build and sustain a world-class digital country."

Ms Sturgeon said there is recognition within local and national government that digital connectivity is "vital to future economic prosperity".

Bill Murphy, BT managing director of Next-Generation Access, commented that the broadband provider is "incredibly excited" to be working on the new project.

He explained that BT's own commercial project has delivered super-fast broadband coverage to 1.5 million premises in Scotland already, and the latest initiative will help extend network reach into more remote parts of the country.

“We believe that access to a reliable, high-speed broadband service can shape lives for the better, and so this is an important moment in the evolution of Scotland’s communications story," Mr Murphy added.

"We’ll create a platform to support Scotland’s economic and social prosperity well into the future. It will stimulate growth in its thriving small business and social enterprise culture, helping the country to compete in an increasingly digital world."

He added that bringing fibre broadband to another 600,000-plus Scottish homes and businesses is "a huge civil engineering challenge".

"We’re looking forward to rolling up our sleeves and starting work straight away to deliver an outstanding, transformational project," Mr Murphy stated.

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