Rumbles backs calls for improved mobile coverage after study shows Scotland is trailing behind

North East MSP Mike Rumbles has added his voice to a Federation of Small Business (FSB) campaign, launched today, calling on the UK Government to intervene on mobile phone coverage in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Liberal Democrat MSP also urged the Scottish Government to do more to target rural blackspots.

4G coverage in Scotland is the worst in the UK. With only 30% of Scotland’s landmass covered in comparison to 45% in Wales and 73% in England. Obligations proposed by Ofcom would require operators to raise the coverage in Scotland to 76%.

Mr Rumbles said:

“The FSB is quite right to raise this issue. When it comes to new technologies in connectivity and telecommunications infrastructure, rural communities in Scotland have been left behind and that is not good enough.

“Having a decent mobile phone reception or access to 4G is no longer a luxury, it is absolutely essential for our rural economy. Being denied reliable access puts local businesses at a huge disadvantage.    

“Our governments in both Edinburgh and Westminster must do more to target rural blackspots. We’ve heard a lot of promises from both the SNP and the Conservatives but anyone who lives in a rural, remote and island community will know that progress is glacial.”


Notes for Editors:

  • Full FSB Embargoed Press Release:    

Embargo: Not for publication or broadcast before 00.00 Friday 11 May 2018

Business in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland calls for improved mobile coverage

Business leaders in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have called on the UK Government to improve mobile phone coverage.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has urged the UK Government to back Ofcom’s proposals to attach obligations to improve coverage to an upcoming sale of mobile spectrum.  But - in a joint letter to the Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales - FSB argues that Ministers must ensure these coverage targets are as ambitious as possible.

The most recent Ofcom data, published last week, shows that UK mobile phone coverage is poorer outside England.

Ben Francis, FSB’s policy chair for Wales, said: “Modern digital infrastructure is as important to business as good transport links. But for too long mobile phone coverage in Wales has lagged behind acceptable modern standards.

“As we look to the future, UK Ministers must ensure that ambitious mobile targets ensure that no community is left behind.”

Ofcom is currently consulting on coverage obligations in the award of the

700 MHz spectrum band. The regulator proposes that successful operators would provide good voice and data services across at least 92% of the UK’s total landmass. Obligations would also be attached to provide good coverage across 92% of Northern Ireland and England’s landmass, 83% of Wales’ landmass and 76% of Scotland’s landmass.  

Andy Willox, FSB’s Scottish policy convenor said: “Mobile phone coverage in many parts of Scotland is unacceptably poor. This makes it more difficult to do business, and harms the experience of visitors.

“Ministers must ensure that Ofcom squeezes every drop of value from their upcoming sale – driving better coverage in areas that have been underserviced in the past.”

Tina McKenzie, FSB’s policy chair for Northern Ireland, said: “While progress has been made in closing the connectivity gap across the UK, there’s still much work to be done. Businesses in Northern Ireland must have access to mobile and broadband infrastructure fit for the 21st century.”

In the letter to the Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell MP, the Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns MP and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley MP, FSB argues:

“Across the length and breadth of the UK, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) wants to see digital infrastructure which meets the needs of businesses and local communities. We expect that you share these ambitions, and we look forward to working with you to turn them into a reality.”



  1. E-mail Stuart or one of his colleagues for a copy of the letter
  2. Details of the Ofcom consultation can be found here:
  3. Data from Ofcom shows that UK 4G mobile coverage is poorer outside England (Ofcom – Connected Nations Update – Spring 2018)

Geographic 4G coverage across all four operators at January 2018


Northern Ireland








  1. FSB recently made representations to the Scottish Affairs Committee on digital connectivity:


About FSB

As experts in business, FSB offers members a wide range of vital business services, including advice, financial expertise, support and a powerful voice in Government. Its aim is to help smaller businesses achieve their ambitions.

ISDN facilities are available for broadcast media interviews – ISDN no 0141 229 0253

Media contacts

Scotland - Stuart Mackinnon [email protected] 07917 628 995

Northern Ireland – Daniel Donnelly [email protected]  07920 846 525

Wales – Ben Cottam [email protected]  07917 628926

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