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Connectivity / Government ‘cannot be complacent’ about improving mobile coverage, MP warns

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has pressed the government on progress in implementing the Shared Rural Network, which aims to eliminate partial ‘not-spots’ in mobile coverage in rural and island parts of the UK.

Speaking in parliament Carmichael called for ministers to give an update on the rollout when parliament returns from recess in September.

The £1bn plan was announced in 2019 with the aim that by 2025, 74 per cent of Scotland will have 4G coverage from all four mobile networks, up from the 44 per cent in 2020.

The percentage of Scotland’s landmass expected to have coverage from at least one carrier was also expected to rise from 81 per cent to 91 per cent.

Carmichael said: “As we go into recess, I have been struck by the number of Honourable and Right Honourable Members who have told me that they intend to take their summer holidays in Orkney and Shetland this year.

“I am sure, like the rest of the world they are attracted by our breath-taking scenery, our wildlife, our birdlife, our world-heritage sites, our quality local food and drink offering.

“I fear also that we are attractive to MPs because they know that there are so many parts of the Northern Isles where they won’t be bothered by the mobile phone signal making their phone ring. It is great for holidaying MPs, but it’s a bit of a pain for the rest of us.

“So, when we come back in September, can we have an update from her colleagues in the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology on the Shared Rural Network scheme?”

Responding, the Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt said: “Well, I congratulate him on providing a wonderful advert, if there are any members who aren’t planning on holidaying in his constituency, for reasons why they should.

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“He raises a serious matter, and I will certainly make sure that the two departments that are most relevant to this have heard what he has said today.”

Reacting after the exchange Carmichael said he was “certain that progress continues apace but we all deserve some clarity on the state of play before the government’s own deadline for completion”.

“The pandemic showed clearly that digital connections are more important than ever, to keep people in touch with loved ones and connected to the wider world. We cannot be complacent about such a vital issue,” he said.

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