Scotland’s mobile ‘notspots’ will be tackled with a new £3.75m investment in infrastructure, helping “bridge the digital divide between rural and urban areas”, the finance secretary has announced.

Mobile coverage in some of the most rural parts of Scotland will be improved by an additional nine masts, which have been earmarked for the Scottish Borders, Highlands, Angus and island communities.

Marking the latest phase of the Scottish 4G Infill (S4GI) infrastructure programme, the masts will provide more rural homes and businesses with 4G mobile connectivity for the first time.

It takes the total funding package for the programme, being delivered by WHP Telecoms – one of the UK’s leading suppliers of network infrastructure services – to £28.75m.

Finance secretary Kate Forbes said: “Digital connectivity is crucial to Scotland’s economic recovery and this latest investment in rural areas furthers our commitment to tackle the nation’s mobile ‘notspots’.

“Extending the programme’s reach brings lasting economic, social and environmental benefits. As we move out of lockdown, increased mobile connectivity will help bridge the digital divide between rural and urban areas, allowing people to work more flexibly and sustainably while keeping communities safe and connected.

“This in turn advances the Scottish Government’s wider green development goals in the run up to Cop26 in November.”

Martyn Cheyne, WHP’s strategic development director, said: “WHP welcomes confirmation of this additional funding and this is excellent news. By extending the programme’s reach into more communities it will bring life enhancing connectivity to residents and businesses.

“It is also a sound endorsement of the programme’s success to date, which WHP is pleased to have played a part in, and has paved the way for the Shared Rural Network.”

Three masts removed earlier this year will also be replaced.

The 12 new mast locations are: Deanburnhaugh; Ham; The Craigs; Kinlochard; Inverie (formerly referred to as Mallaig); Kenmore; Ellemford; Berneray Harbour; Rottal (formerly referred to as Clova); Stronachlachar; Achnosnich; Kilchoman.

The latest locations are subject to the programme successfully obtaining planning permissions, landowner agreements approval and mobile network operator commitments.

So far, the S4GI programme has delivered 11 masts with more activations expected over the coming months. By the summer of 2023, the programme is anticipated to deliver up to 55 masts across Scotland’s rural regions. 

The S4GI programme is backed by £17.48m of Scottish Government funding and £11.27m from the European Regional Development Fund.