By Iain Ramage
A protest has saved more than 50 public payphones from being withdrawn from use in remote Highland communities.
Telecoms giant BT has agreed to keep them operating, but 55 others will be scrapped – along with dozens more across the north of Scotland.
For some, they are a thing of beauty. They are iconic.
One was even a film star, with a lead role in the classic movie Local Hero.
Phone boxes will have helped save countless lives in times of emergency. But times change. Technology moves on.
Hundreds of phone boxes have already been superseded because of our faith in mobile phones.
However, serious concerns remain in many Highland communities which have experienced landline and mobile signal difficulties.
Tomich in Inverness-shire is among Highland communities adamant that BT retains a local payphone – and has been successful this week in its campaign.
Outdoor instructor Tim Francis, who lives in the village, said: “We live in quite a remote location, really. It’s only about 28 miles from Inverness but it still feels quite remote.
“We get a patchy mobile phone signal and quite often I can’t get a signal at all – maybe text. And, sometimes, telephone lines go down. A couple of times a year that just happens.”
Highland Council sought public feedback and has acted on it. As a result, BT’s Highland hit-list of 110 has been halved.
In August, BT announced plans to remove many more of its phone boxes – 110 in Highland.
Others were in Aberdeen (13), Aberdeenshire (30), Dundee (16), Moray (14), Fife (42) and Perth and Kinross (25).
BT said public phone use had fallen 90% in the past decade.
Highland will be left with just over 400 payphones.
Creative villages such as Foyers on the banks of Loch Ness have ‘adopted’ redundant boxes for £1, converting them into tourist attractions.
BT is expected to ring the changes again with a fresh round of decommissioning in the future.