Lessons from Scotland

The Scottish government recognises the importance of data centres as part of its IT strategy. The organization ‘Host in Scotland’ has been established, funded by the Scottish Futures Trust and Scottish Government.

Host in Scotland has commissioned a number of reports including ones from Deloitte and Gartner which are available on the host in Scotland website:
Scotland recognises international connectivity as a factor contributing to data centre success, indeed this is one of the main recommendations from the Deloitte report. Section states for example:

The modelling analysis estimates that in the long-term (2030), Scottish GVA will likely be around £0.4 billion higher annually due to enhanced international connectivity compared to the baseline, with over 3,000 additional jobs in that year relative to the baseline of no new international connectivity and only incremental increases in the number of additional data centres.

These benefits will come from more fixed broadband subscribers, more mobile subscribers contributing to greater digitalisation and a larger data centre industry in Scotland, [...] The impact of having many more data centres (including a second hyper- scale data centre) are particular pronounced.

Deloitte’s modelling may not be perfect: they seem to extrapolate conclusions about the Scottish economy from data on the UK economy, but the recommendations concerning connectivity are probably sound.

There are many submarine connections that come into Scotland from around the world, especially the key North America market. These connections invariably are routed through Scotland towards London, and data moving from North America to Scotland ‘bounces’ from England. Scotland therefore appears to be further away from New York than London, even though the data physically passes through Scotland on its way to England.

To address this issue, the Scottish government has three reports following studies into enhancing international connectivity into Scotland using sub-marine cables. These reports make interesting reading and illustrate the investment the Scottish government is prepared to consider to improve Scotland’s competitiveness.

The Host in Scotland website includes the following statement:

Scotland is in the process of delivering world class fibre-first infrastructure across the country. This is not easy – we have a very concentrated population base in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen with a much greater rurally distributed population than many other countries of comparable size. In order to address this, the Scottish Government and SFT are working to deliver both the 4G Infill project and the Reaching 100 (R100) projects. In so doing, the country will be ready for the advent of technologies such as 5G, AR/AI and IoT. These technologies will require many more Edge/Colo facilities and we recognise that investment and support of these facilities is pivotal to the future success of the country

The sentence in bold should be familiar to people in Wales who also are seeking to improve broadband coverage here. Scotland is going much further, coupling improved domestic infrastructure to international connections. This is an excellent strategy, building a basis for economic development within the country without it being a satellite for London.