BT, who provides telephone services to Shetland, assured Isles MSP Tavish Scott that they making their telephone network as robust as it can be. During today’s meeting (Tuesday) Tavish Scott pressed BT to ensure that losing the 999 emergency number on the 25th July cannot happen again. BT stressed that they have repaired the Wideford Hill radio transmitter in Orkney where the fault occurred leaving Shetland and some of Orkney without any 999 call service for 4.5 hours. BT told Tavish Scott that they are working on long term resilience plans to strengthen the network and minimise the possibility of Shetland losing telephone services. Tavish Scott met BT Scotland Director Brendan Dick and Mark Dames, Head of BT Policy. BT is meeting the Scottish Government this week to discuss improvements to the reliability of the service.
Speaking after the Edinburgh meeting Tavish Scott said, “I asked BT to meet Shetland’s emergency services to discuss the repairs and improvements being made to telephone services. They also need to discuss these repairs with Sumburgh Airport which again was closed on 25th July. That is not the first time it has happened. Shetland cannot again have a 4 and a half hour period where there is no 999 number available. That put huge pressure on all our local emergency services. The police, fire, coastguard and NHS all had to find other ways to tell local people how to get in touch. The NHS had to ask Radio Shetland to tell people to just turn up at the Gilbert Bain Hospital.
Tavish Scott also raised mobile phone coverage across Shetland in today’s meeting. He added, “I am concerned by the robustness of the mobile phone coverage across Shetland for people needing to call 999 in an emergency. The Scottish Government have told me that the NHS used Vodafone to dial 999 but was not connected. So that system failed. O2 and EE’s mobile coverage is patchy at best across Shetland. More and more people now use their mobiles to call 999 in emergencies. So I want the Scottish Government and BT to work not just on ensuring telephones from homes work. But also to accept that all areas of Shetland need mobile phone coverage too. I will be pressing the Scottish Government to look again at brokering arrangements with the mobile phone industry for better coverage and especially in areas where none exists at the moment.”