This article is part of our Essential Guide: A guide to a digital government: General election 2015

SNP calls for broadband service obligation in 2015 general election manifesto

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has called for a universal service obligation to cover provision of broadband across the UK

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has called for a universal service obligation to cover provision of broadband across the UK, in its 2015 general election manifesto.

The SNP also highlighted science and technology research and a desire for “world-class digital connectivity” in Scotland – but the party’s manifesto otherwise made very little mention of digital policies. The Conservative Party, Labour and Liberal Democrats all made a number of policy promises around technology in their manifestos published last week.

The digital commitments from the SNP were:

  • To seek additional investment to support a more rapid roll-out of superfast broadband and 4G across Scotland and to support wider and affordable access to the internet in disadvantaged communities;
  • A universal service obligation, applied to telecoms and broadband providers ensuring everyone can access the communications they need – although there was no mention of what that obligation should specify in speed or coverage;
  • To deliver a future-proofed infrastructure that will establish world-class digital connectivity across Scotland by 2020, including tackling the digital divide;
  • Investing in superfast broadband, so that at least 95% of premises across Scotland will be able to access fibre broadband by the end of 2017;
  • To foster a "culture of innovation" in Scotland, by establishing a ministerial-led Innovation Forum and supporting the network of Innovation Centres, to ensure effective knowledge and innovation transfer from the academic research base into the wider business community. This includes a £1m Innovation Challenge Fund to help address “major societal and industrial challenges”.

Absence of Scottish startup support

There are no mentions of support for technology startups in Scotland, despite research earlier in 2015 that showed 32.3% growth in Scottish IT startups since 2009, up from 4,930 to 6,520 tech enterprises.

The SNP approach contrasts with the main UK-wide parties, whose general election manifestos contained a range of technology-related policies covering broadband, digital government, support for tech startups, skills and education.

However, the SNP said it does not support plans for a “snoopers’ charter” – the controversial Communications Data Bill favoured by the Tories. “Instead, we need a proportionate response to extremism. That is why we will support targeted, and properly overseen, measures to identify suspected extremists and, if necessary, examine their online activity and communications,” said the SNP manifesto.

Computer Weekly conducted research before the 2014 independence referendum in Scotland that estimated the Scottish government could face a £1bn bill to replicate all the IT systems it would need if the SNP achieved its aim of full autonomy from Westminster. 

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