COMMUNICATIONS: £3.75 million to improve rural connectivity

 May 25, 2021

By Lucy Ashton

Mobile coverage in some of the most rural parts of Scotland will be improved with an additional £3.75 million investment.

A further nine masts are earmarked for the Scottish Borders, Highlands, Angus and island communities, along with three to replace masts removed earlier this year.

Marking the latest phase of the Scottish 4G Infill (S4GI) infrastructure programme, the masts will provide more rural homes and businesses with 4G mobile connectivity for the first time.

It takes the total funding package for the programme, being delivered by WHP Telecoms, to £28.75 million.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, pictured right,  said: “Digital connectivity is crucial to Scotland’s economic recovery and this latest investment in rural areas furthers our commitment to tackle the nation’s mobile ‘notspots’

“Extending the programme’s reach brings lasting economic, social and environmental benefits. As we move out of lockdown, increased mobile connectivity will help bridge the digital divide between rural and urban areas, allowing people to work more flexibly and sustainably while keeping communities safe and connected.

“This in turn advances the Scottish Government’s wider green development goals in the run up to COP26 in November.”

Martyn Cheyne, WHP’s Strategic Development Director, said: “WHP welcomes confirmation of this additional funding and this is excellent news. By extending the programme’s reach into more communities it will bring life enhancing connectivity to residents and businesses.

“It is also a sound endorsement of the programme’s success to date, which WHP is pleased to have played a part in, and has paved the way for the Shared Rural Network.”

The 12 new mast locations are: Deanburnhaugh; Ham; The Craigs; Kinlochard; Inverie (formerly referred to as Mallaig); Kenmore; Ellemford; Berneray Harbour; Rottal (formerly referred to as Clova); Stronachlachar; Achnosnich; Kilchoman.

There is no mention hoever in the programme of masts in places such as Glen Fruin which is well known locally as one of many “notspots” in West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute.

The latest locations are subject to the programme successfully obtaining planning permissions, landowner agreements approval and mobile network operator commitments.

So far, the S4GI programme has delivered 11 masts with more activations expected over the coming months. By the summer of 2023, the programme is anticipated to deliver up to 55 masts across Scotland’s rural regions.

The S4GI programme is backed by £17.48 million of Scottish Government funding and £11.27 million from the European Regional Development Fund.

Picture: A shepherd gathering sheep in Glen Fruin in the hills above Helensburgh, where the telephone signal is either weak or non existent. Picture by Bill Heaney

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