South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine says it is unacceptable that residents of Dumfries and Galloway will be among the last to receive improved mobile phone coverage as part of a UK Government project.

Details of the plans revealed this week by the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) have named parts of the country and the order in which they will receive the investment. The map published by DCMS shows that the south west of Scotland is not scheduled to receive the upgraded infrastructure until phase 5 – the final phase – of the Mobile Infrastructure Project. 

The Scottish Highlands – one of the largest areas in the UK with no reliable signal – will be the last area of priority to receive the investment.

Ms McAlpine said:

“At the moment control over telecommunications is reserved to the government in Westminster who regulate the industry through Ofcom.

“Meanwhile the 2G that allows simple phone calls is unavailable across more than a quarter of Scotland. By contrast, only four per cent of England has no 2G.  About 70 per cent of the Highlands has no reliable 3G signal, compared with less than one per cent of rural north Somerset.”

“People living in Scotland – and particularly the south west and rural areas – have consistently found themselves at the bottom of the UK Government’s list of priorities when it comes to provision of internet and mobile phone services.

“That matters because mobile coverage is now as essential to businesses and health and education services as electricity and running water.”

She added:

“I urge the UK Government to end the lack of provision in Scotland by telling companies – through Ofcom – that full geographical coverage is a condition of licence. We already see this in the postal service and in fixed-line telephones, where a universal service obligation is the law.

“If Ofcom answered to our Scottish Parliament, or if we were independent with our own communications regulators, we could design a system suited to Scotland’s needs and reach the standard of other small countries like the Netherlands and Switzerland, which are among the best connected in the world.”