Scotland

New life for the red phone box

Red phone box Image copyright Thinkstock

When was the last time you made a call from a phone box?

In 2003 in Scotland, there were nearly 7,000 phone boxes. Today there are fewer than 5,000 boxes - and just over 1,000 of them are the iconic red phone boxes.

As more and more of us use mobile phones, the number of call boxes will continue to decline.

But some communities across the country are turning to them for new and very different uses.

An old phone box in Comrie has a new lease of life... as a life saver.

Alan Moffat is the manager of the first response team in Comrie.

"It's a community access defibrillator site; we have converted it and put a defibrillator in for the use in the local community. I know it can save lives, it's probably one of the best chances people have of recovering from a cardiac arrest."

And that's the hope of the community who raised money in memory of a local woman, Irene McCartney, who died in 2012.

Her widower Gordon hopes it will make a real difference to someone in the future.

And art is in the spotlight in another phone box in Portobello.

Steven Wheatley had the vision to turn a disused phone box into a vibrant art exhibition space, the Porty Light Box, albeit on a small scale.

"I'm a bit nostalgic and I appreciate what they add to the street scene so I was keen to retain it," he explained.

The phones never ring

Actually making a phone call from a phone box is becoming a thing of the past so will they eventually disappear altogether?

BT Scotland director Brendan Dick said: "Clearly as people adopt mobile technology, as those networks expand there is less demand for them in some areas.

"Yet in some urban parts some of them are used very extensively, so there is a future for pay phones in the broader sense."

Today BT operates 4,864 kiosks in Scotland - it had 5,251 in 2012, 5,896 in 2007 and 6,962 in 2003. It currently has 1,129 red kiosks in Scotland.

During the last 12 months, no paid for call has been made from 1,723 of Scottish payphones, including 684 of the red boxes.

And in Alyth in Perthshire another transformation is planned.

Marian Bruce is the project coordinator of the Story Box.

"The idea was that it would be a time machine, a bit like Dr Who's Tardis," she said.

"You would go into the box and you would be able to move forwards and backwards in time to hear about the stories from Alyth.

"We're recording oral histories from people and stories about the town now from people who live and work in the town and we're also working with young people to think about the future of Alyth and what the town will be like when they're grown up."