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Community / Skerries and Foula masts removed from government 4G programme

Foula. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

PLANS for 4G masts in Skerries and Foula have been shelved due to a lack of interest from mobile operators.

The sites at Bruray in Skerries and Ham in Foula have been removed from the Scottish Government’s 4G infill programme, which aims to bring high speed mobile coverage to ‘notspots’ in rural locations lacking signal.

The move has been criticised by Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart, who has called for the government to step up to the plate and provide the masts itself.

One of the three proposed Shetland sites does remain in the programme, though – a mast at Reawick, which already has planning permission.

A total of 26 proposed sites across Scotland have been axed from the programme as a result of a lack of interest from mobile operators.

Twenty four remain, and another 16 sites have now been added as potential candidate sites.

Wishart said that people living in Foula and Skerries have “once more been let down”.

“It is quite clear that further intervention is needed. If mobile operators do not see a business case for operating in small remote communities then the government must step in to ensure that mobile coverage is available,” she added.

“People will rightly be questioning what the point of programmes like this are if they do not make a real difference to the people who could benefit the most.”

Wishart said mobile coverage is “vital” for services like healthcare, education and banking.

“For small remote communities to survive and thrive it’s crucial that the infrastructure is there to enable people to stay and others to move or return to island life,” the Lib Dem continued.

“While it is good news that the Reawick site is progressing, I will be seeking to ensure that the sites that have been excluded are not forgotten and that further steps will be taken to bring mobile coverage to the remaining ‘not-spots’ in Shetland.”

Connectivity and islands minister Paul Wheelhouse said that “improving mobile coverage is vital to achieving the Scottish Government’s ambition to make sure everyone in Scotland has access to high-speed, reliable coverage”.