SUPERCHARGING the roll-out of 5G mobile phone connections could see Scotland’s economy ring in an additional £12 billion, it is claimed.

The figures come from a former Treasury economist commissioned by telecom giant Vodafone, which argues that the multi-billion boost would be felt over the next decade and could help the country recover from “economic emergency” Nicola Sturgeon says has been created by Covid-19.

The Scottish Government says the 5G system – which is the fifth generation of mobile phone technology and promises better data handling and connections up to 100 times faster than what’s in place now – will be “critical” to the nation’s prosperity in the coming years.

The current 4G network doesn’t cover all of the country, with smaller communities in rural areas amongst those most affected by service gaps. However, these also affect parts of our biggest cities.

Work carried out for the phone company by expert Matthew Oakley suggests faster and more reliable networks could bring cumulative benefits of £2.9b to Scotland’s output in the five years to 2025.

For the subsequent five years, the benefit is estimated at £9.3b. The research, published today, suggests 5G could help manufacturers make smarter production lines to increase speed and reduce costs, and let retailers bring digitally fitted changing rooms to the high street that would allow customers to request different sizes or colours from staff by scanning tags on the items they’ve already tried on.

Nick Jeffery, chief executive officer of Vodafone UK, said: “5G will play a vital role as the economy recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic. It is crucial to recognise the role that fast and reliable connectivity will play in unlocking the digital potential that exists in every region across the country. 5G will provide new and exciting opportunities for businesses of all shapes and sizes and across all sectors.”

Commenting, Connectivity Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP said: “5G and digital technologies are critical to our future prosperity over the next decade and beyond, and now even more so as we plan our strategic economic recovery from Covid-19.

“Investing in digital infrastructure is already a proven driver of economic growth and is at the heart of the Scottish Government’s 5G strategy, published last August.

“This is why we have established The Scotland 5G Centre, backed with £5.3 million of funding. This will provide the leadership to support widespread development and deployment of 5G throughout Scotland, helping us seize the economic and social benefits of this new technology.”

The comments come after it emerged that a legal challenge to the biggest element of the Scottish Government’s £600m R100 superfast broadband scheme could mean a key cut-off date at the end of the year is missed.

The scheme is supposed to help connect rural areas but Gigaclear Ltd has taken ministers to court over the contract for the north of the country.

The Herald on Sunday revealed ministers have been accused of failing in their “express duties” under procurement law and of “manifest error” in awarding that contract to BT. The matter, which also relates to European state aid rules, is before the Court of Session, which held a virtual preliminary hearing last week.

Gigaclear’s QC Mark Lindsay said his client wants compensation and for the award of the contract to BT to be “set aside”.

Solicitor Advocate Christine O’Neill, for the Scottish Government, said it is “extremely important that this matter is dealt with in its entirety by the end of the year”.