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matthew hancock official

Digital Minister Matt Hancock has criticised the Scottish government for making slow progress on rolling out superfast broadband.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Mr Hancock said the Scottish government "has been sitting on UK taxpayers' cash since 2014".

As a result, Scotland is lagging behind the rest of the country when it comes to superfast broadband availability.

The UK government therefore plans to hand millions of pounds for a new fibre broadband rollout directly to Scottish councils, rather than to the governing Scottish National Party (SNP).

Mr Hancock insisted he is not trying to make a political point by criticising the SNP, as he has praised the Labour administration in Wales for its successful broadband rollouts.

However, he said the SNP is "three years behind" the rest of the UK, with the party yet to sign the contracts regarding the second phase of the broadband rollout at a time when English councils are preparing for phase three.

Mr Hancock said English councils are far ahead partly because they have "got on with delivering, instead of playing politics with independence".

"For the full fibre rollout, we’re going directly to local authorities, because we’re fed up with the Scottish government’s poor performance," he commented.

"It has been done much more successfully by local authorities in England."

Mr Hancock added that 94 per cent premises of in the UK currently have access to superfast broadband, while the figure in Scotland is 92 per cent.

The government has set a target of achieving 95 per cent coverage nationally by the end of this year.

Responding to Mr Hancock's comments, the SNP's Rural Economy Minister Fergus Ewing said the assertion that Scotland is behind the rest of the UK is "completely untrue".

"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 per cent coverage by the end of this year," he added.

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