Nearly half of small rural businesses have poor broadband connection, Citizens Advice Scotland finds

Written by Jenni Davidson on 18 July 2018 in News

Almost all SMEs reported that the postal service was important to their business, with a greater reliance where broadband was poorer

Highland hills - Image credit: Flickr

Nearly half of small businesses in rural Scotland suffer from poor broadband connectivity, new research has found.

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) reports that a third of SMEs across Scotland say they have poor or variable broadband services, but this rises to 45 per cent of small businesses in rural areas.

The CAS report, ‘Delivering for Business: Scottish SMEs’ use of postal services’, which centred SME’s reliance on mail delivery, found that nearly one in five small businesses said they could not function without the postal service, with another 72 per cent saying it was very or fairly important.

Those which reported poor broadband connectivity were twice as likely to say that the postal service was core to their business – 26 per cent versus 13 per cent.

However, nearly a quarter had had to pay surcharges on postal deliveries due their location and 21 per cent had experienced delays to deliveries for the same reason.

Scottish SMEs were also found to be more frequent users of the post office than in other parts of the UK, with 40 per cent describing the post office as extremely or very important to their business.

The report makes a number of recommendations for improvement, including creating a statutory telecoms consumer advocate to represent the interests of consumers, maintaining current levels of postal services for SMEs and rural proofing for SMEs in policy making.

CAS chief executive Derek Mitchell said: “The success of small and medium sized businesses is key to economic growth, particularly in rural areas where hospitality, agriculture and construction businesses contribute significantly to the financial health of their local community. 

"But to flourish in more remote areas requires good digital connectivity and an effective postal system.

“One third of Scotland’s SMEs have told us that broadband is poor or ‘variable’ in their area; with this figure rising to 45 per cent in remote rural areas. 

“This simply isn't good enough if we want all regions of Scotland to prosper. 

"We will be sharing this data with the UK and Scottish governments and with postal service providers to inform future policymaking.

“Scotland needs postal and broadband services that are reliable, efficient and affordable." 

The issue of postal surcharges has recently been addressed with the launch of a new website for consumers and businesses, deliverylaw.uk, which was developed by Highland Council’s trading standards department using funding from Trading Standards Scotland.

The site gives advice about consumer rights and provides templates to raise cases and a section for reporting unfair practices,

Highland Council leader Councillor Margaret Davidson said: "We think that this new website will make an important contribution to the battle to ensure that internet shoppers are treated fairly on parcel delivery.”

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