Phone fiasco signals need to ring mobile changes

THE majority of us probably take access to a mobile phone as a necessity, but spare a thought for the residents of remote rural regions like the Ettrick Valley where a mobile can literally mean the difference between life and death.

It makes it all the more worrying, therefore, that in such an area, mobile phone coverage is actually non-existent for most of the valley’s length.

And last week the importance of mobile coverage being improved as a matter of urgency was underlined when, on Thursday, all telephone landline communication outwith the valley was cut off for 24 hours.

It was only by good fortune that a potentially difficult situation did not turn to tragedy, as it may have done if anyone had needed to alert the emergency services.

The neighbouring Yarrow Valley does enjoy coverage, but for reasons almost certainly commercial, those living in the Ettrick Valley do not.

And it has given rise to the bizzare situation whereby the Ettrick Valley is the location for two phone masts used to ensure communication links for the emergency services, yet this is in an area where no-one can use a mobile phone to alert said emergency services of the need for their help.

Once upon a time the only residents of such places were all farmers, herds, gamekeepers, woodsmen and their families – people used to relying on themselves when living and working in remote areas.

Today, more people have rightly been attracted to come and live in some of the Borders’ most beautiful and remote districts, bringing much-needed life and income with them.

But if we wish to retain such rural communities in the 21st century, then we need to provide basic services, like mobile phone links, which are taken for granted elsewhere.