When I was first elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2003 few people argued that a priority should be to enable all exchanges in the Borders for broadband. Business users recognised the benefit, but it simply wasn’t an election issue. Seven years on, I rarely attend an event or a meeting without digital issues being raised. In part this is because of software developments or growth in the use of the internet, but also a recognition of how far we can fall behind if other areas are developing faster and better IT links.
Michael Moore MP has taken the lead in the Borders on the issue of the digital television and I have been working with local businesses and agencies pressing for better IT infrastructure. The need for improved connectivity, there is no better way to describe it, is simply vital to the future of the economy of the Borders. For tourism businesses visitors need the same speed and level of access that they expect in other destinations around the UK and the world. For local businesses, tele-conferencing facilities should be the norm not a novelty. For schools, Borders College or the School of Textiles, student, pupils and learners should be able to access online learning opportunities. Our creative sector needs the same level of connectivity to compete with bigger but not necessarily better companies in the cities.
This paper summarises where we are, and suggests for discussion, proposals about where we need to be. I would be interested in your views. The results of the meeting on the 11th June, and with local businesses I will be seeking to present the findings and conclusions to both the UK and Scottish Governments.