Concern over phone box cuts where there is no guarantee of a mobile signal

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BT should not axe phone boxes in areas where there is no guarantee of a good mobile signal according to South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth.

Mr Smyth was commenting as it was revealed BT plan to axe a further 650 phone boxes across Scotland – around 20 per cent of the national total.

The latest cuts would leave about 2600 phone boxes – a reduction of more than 60 per cent since 2003.

The planned cuts include over 200 in the south of Scotland: 37 in Dumfries and Galloway, 13 in East Ayrshire, 32 in East Lothian, 12 in Midlothian, 95 in the Scottish Borders and nine in South Ayrshire.

Mr Smyth said: “Public phone boxes are still very important to many communities across the South of Scotland, especially in rural areas.

“These cuts are yet another depressing erosion of services in rural communities to add to the loss of Post Offices, banks and cash machines.

“It’s fine for BT to say that most people now have mobile phones but that isn’t the case for everyone and coverage isn’t always great.

“BT should at least give a clear guarantee that no phone box will be removed in an area where there is not good mobile phone coverage from several providers in that area.

“Ideally they should reconsider these cuts or local councils should ensure they object to any that will impact adversely on communities.”

A BT spokesperson said, “Most people now have a mobile phone and calls made from our public telephones have fallen by around 90 per cent in the past decade. We consider a number of factors before consulting on the removal of payphones, including whether others are available nearby and usage.

In a statement BT said: “In Scotland, we are consulting on the removal of 650 payphones (around 20 percent of the total number in Scotland). As part of the consultation we are also offering communities the chance to adopt traditional red ‘heritage’ phone boxes for just £1 through our Adopt a Kiosk scheme and transform them into something inspirational for their local area. In Scotland alone nearly 400 have already been adopted.

“The need to provide payphones for use in emergency situations is also diminishing all the time, with at least 98 per cent of the UK having either 3G or 4G coverage. This is important because as long as there is network coverage, it’s now possible to call the emergency services, even when there is no credit or no coverage from your own mobile provider.”