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More than 170,000 homes and businesses across rural Scotland have gained access to fibre services thanks to the Scotland Superfast Broadband partnership.

The £410 million Digital Scotland programme is continuing to bring super-fast internet connectivity to rural towns and villages that previously lacked access to next-generation infrastructure.

A further 15 locations, including Portsoy and Newmachar in Aberdeenshire, Strathmiglo in Fife, Dalrymple in East Ayrshire, Maybole in South Ayrshire, and Sandhead and Wigtown in Dumfries & Galloway have been connected since November.

Many more are set to benefit in the weeks and months ahead as the Digital Scotland rollout continues into 2015.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the Scottish Government is committed to ensuring Scotland has "truly world-class" digital infrastructure by 2020.

"Bridging the digital divide is a critical element within our overall digital strategy," he stated.

“We are still in the early stages, but already thousands of Scottish homes and businesses are able to take advantage and sign up. They simply wouldn’t have had access to high-speed technology without this ambitious partnership project.”

BT Scotland Director Brendan Dick said 2014 has been "a year of great progress" on Scotland’s digital journey.

"We’re ending on a high note by passing another milestone in our partnership with the public sector, with an additional 20,000 premises able to connect to the Digital Scotland network since mid-November," he added.

Mr Dick explained that, when BT's commercial rollout is combined with Digital Scotland's, the firm's fibre network passes a total of 1.4 million Scottish homes and businesses.

The number able to get high-speed broadband in Scotland has grown by 10,000 per week over the course of this year, he noted.

"Fast internet connections can make a real difference to day-to-day home and working life, perhaps especially in our rural and remote communities, and we are proud to be helping to make it happen across Scotland," Mr Dick added.

Ed Vaizey, the UK Minister for Digital Economy, said investing in super-fast broadband is a key part of the plan to bring world-class connectivity to British homes and businesses.

He said MPs recognise that the growing demands of the digital age will have "a significant impact" on the UK's competitiveness.

"We are making great progress in Scotland and the rest of the UK with our broadband rollout so that we're a more efficient and attractive place to do business," Mr Vaizey added.

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