Third of Scotland's payphones earmarked for removal

Phone booth in the High Street, Dumfries
Image caption Phone booths in Dumfries town centre are among those threatened with removal

Almost a third of public payphones in Scotland have been earmarked for removal, BBC Scotland has learned.

BT is consulting on plans to remove about 1,500 phone boxes Scotland-wide.

The firm says payphone usage has declined by more than 90% over the last decade as the popularity of mobile phones has surged.

It revealed that, of about 4,800 payphones in Scotland, fewer than five calls were made from 1,280 of them over the last year.

No calls at all were made from more than 700 kiosks.

If all the removals go-ahead, it would leave about 3,300 operational phone boxes north of the border - fewer than half the 6,962 tally of 2003.

The move has raised concerns in some remote areas where mobile phone signal is patchy and phone boxes can be lifeline.

More than 600 payphones are facing removal in the largely rural areas of Dumfries and Galloway, the Borders, Fife, the Highlands and Aberdeenshire.

However BT said they would ask local councils for permission to remove phones where there was no other payphone within 400m (437yds).

If it receives objections from the local authority, the payphone will not be taken away.

Image caption Notices have been put up in 1,500 payphones, warning that they could be removed

Among those facing removal are 104 in the Scottish Borders.

Local MSP John Lamont said those in remote areas of his constituency provided a valuable, and sometimes lifesaving, service.

"These phone boxes provide a lifeline for many rural communities, both for visitors and the people who live there," he said.

"While their usage has inevitably fallen it remains vital to many local communities to continue to have access to a phone box where mobile phone reception is patchy or non-existent, and for those who choose not to have a landline.

"In an emergency, the closure of these payphones could cause real problems."

Adopt a kiosk

He urged residents who were worried about the plans to contact the local council.

"The key to keeping them lies with Scottish Borders Council's reaction to these plans." he said.

"Anyone who shares my concern must send the council the clear message that our phone boxes are important and should be safeguarded."

A spokeswoman for BT said: "BT is committed to providing a public payphone service, but with usage declining by over 90% in the last decade, we've continued to review and remove payphones which are no longer needed.

"Any removal of payphones is carried out in strict adherence to the Ofcom guidelines and, where appropriate, with the consent of local authorities."

They are also promoting their Adopt a Kiosk scheme, whereby councils or charities can "buy" a kiosk for £1.

About 155 red phone boxes have been adopted by communities in Scotland - some are used to store defibrillators, while others are used as tiny art galleries or libraries.

Local authority area Number of payphones earmarked for removal
Aberdeen 32
Aberdeenshire 106
Angus 80
Argyll and Bute 46
Cairngorm National Park 36
City of Edinburgh 32
Clackmannanshire 18
Dumfries and Galloway 113
Dundee City 15
East Ayrshire 33
East Lothian 36
Falkirk 54
Fife 141
Glasgow City 29
Highland 159
Inverclyde 19
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs 19
Midlothian 31
Moray 58
North Ayrshire 32
North Lanarkshire 24
Perth and Kinross 84
Renfrewshire 14
Scottish Borders 104
South Ayrshire 31
South Lanarkshire 75
Stirling 25
West Lothian 46

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