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£264 million to bring superfast broadband to 85% of Scotland by 2015

The Scottish government has announced a £264 million partnership with BT to ensure 85 per cent of Scottish households and businesses have access to high speed fibre optic broadband by the end of 2015.

The ambitious plans were unveiled by Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday. The project will be led by the Scottish Government in conjunction with with local authorities and includes a £106.7 million investment from BT.

Together with a further £146 million set aside earlier this year to bring faster broadband to the Highlands, as well as commercial investment plans form the private sector, it is hoped that by 2017 nearly all properties in Scotland will have superfast broadband.

Initial priority will be given to small and medium sized rural businesses to encourage economic growth in hard to reach areas. The project will mean providing fibre optic broadband to over 600,000 new homes and buildings.

A Scotland-focused study by strategy advice firm Analysys Mason estimated that £2 billion in economic benefits over 15 years would be delivered by the slated 85 per cent coverage.

Sturgeon said: "Today's 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.

"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."

Bill Murphy, BT managing director of Next Generation Access, added: "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.

"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 compete in an increasingly digital world."

Tomas is co-founder of Lucky Pilgrim, a team of journalists, photographers and art directors who connect brands to audiences through words, imagery and design. He was formerly editorial director at Chapel and managing editor at Courier magazine, and was a writer for ITProPortal as well as The Independent, EastLondonLines, The Sunday Times Magazine, and Croon.