BUSINESSES are being deterred from setting up in East Lothian because of poor or non-existent mobile phone reception, it was claimed today.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has produced a map of mobile coverage using data from Ofcom, which highlights the dramatic gulf in coverage between the county and the Capital.
In Edinburgh 4G access is available to all but 0.06 per cent of the city, whereas in East Lothian, 55 per cent has no access.
FSB spokesman Gordon Henderson said: “There’s a huge difference in coverage between East Lothian and neighbouring Edinburgh and this needs to be addressed if we want to encourage people to set up and run businesses here.
“East Lothian has a lot of not-spots. You drive around the area and there’s a great signal in Haddington, but in Gullane there’s nothing.
“Of course you expect the capital city to have full coverage, but for it effectively to be switched off just a few miles away is just not good enough.”
He said many firms were now reliant on being able to get a good connection.
“If there’s an area with no mobile reception you will not set up business there,” he said.
“We are a ‘mobile’ economy. A lot of people work out of coffee shops and meeting rooms – they use apps and iPads and tablets.
“If you go to a meeting in the middle of the morning, you don’t go back to your office to check your e-mails before your next appointment. You spend the day on the move. If there’s an area where there’s no mobile reception it becomes frustrating and you feel ‘I can’t do business here’.”
Last month, Deputy First Minister John Swinney indicated his intention to pilot rate relief schemes to encourage the installation of mobile masts on Arran and in the Cairngorms.
Mr Henderson said: “An incentive to improve coverage in rural areas is very welcome, but we’re in a hurry for the next stage after the trial.”
He said reliable mobile reception would provide a boost for the economy throughout the area.
And he suggested the expected £1 billion Edinburgh City Region Deal could help fund the necessary work.
He said: “The vast difference in the mobile coverage available across the participating local authority areas is something I would like to see any successful City Region Deal address in order to level the playing field for all of the region’s residents.
“The economic development team in East Lothian is doing great work and trying to encourage people to set up business. But people must be able to communicate with each other – or they are going to go somewhere else.”