Two-thirds of Scotland's iconic red phone boxes could be retired due to lack of use, says Ofcom

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Communications regulator Ofcom have revealed that more than half of red phone boxes in Scotland could be removed, due to a decline in use.

Only 1,000 working phone boxes out of the 2,864 in Scotland are set to be preserved under current plans.

However, Ofcom has claimed it will propose stronger rules to make sure that remaining boxes that fit certain criteria will be preserved.

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Mark Smith, Ofcom's regulatory affairs manager for Scotland, spoke on BBC’s Good Morning Scotland, and said: "We are proposing clearer, stronger rules to safeguard phone boxes against removal if they are in areas where there's poor mobile network coverage, if they're located near an accident or suicide hotspot, or we're aware that a number of calls had been made from the phone box over the past 12 months.

"Our rules protect phone boxes that are in communities where they're most needed, and that also allows BT to remove phone boxes in areas where they are no longer required."

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The decision will allow phone companies to save money by not upgrading or modernising phone boxes that are not regularly used.

Protected phone boxes that are updated could be made into WiFi hot-spots with charging ports for mobile phones.

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A telephone box is pictured as BT are in the consultation process on the removal of public payphones. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)A telephone box is pictured as BT are in the consultation process on the removal of public payphones. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
A telephone box is pictured as BT are in the consultation process on the removal of public payphones. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Smith described Ofcom’s proposal as “positive”, and said: “It sets out clear criteria upon BT to assess whether or not a phone box is needed before they can approach a local authority for closure”.

Ofcom have launched a consultation, to allow the general public to have their say on the matter.

Members of the public have until January 11 next year to submit their responses to Ofcom’s proposal.

While it may not be possible for all phone boxes to continue to fulfil their current function, BT's "Adopt a Kiosk" scheme has made it possible for local bodies to purchase a red phone box for £1 and re-purpose it. More than 6,000 UK phone boxes have been purchased, while 480 have been bought by communities in Scotland. 'Adopted’ kiosks have been transformed in many ways, with some being used as defibrillator-units and others turned into mini-libraries and art-galleries.

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In the past, local communities in Scotland have campaigned to keep phone boxes running.

Locals in Pennan, Aberdeenshire, fought to keep their red phone box, which was made famous famous by the 1983 comedy classic Local Hero.

The box, which is a listed building, was included on a list made by BT of boxes that could be sold under the “Adopt a Kiosk scheme”. However, the local community felt it should continue to be a working phone box.

Bill Kidd, vice chairman of New Aberdour, Tryie and Pennan Community Council, told the Scotsman that “thousands” of tourists had come to see the phone box, and said: “A huge number of people visit Pennan for the phone box, so it brings economic benefit to the area. People come to have their picture taken by the phone box, pick up the receiver and to hear it is a working phone. Then many of them take the chance to make a call here”.

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