Scottish independence: Cost warning from phone firms

SCOTTISH independence could lead to increased costs to companies in the telecommunications industry, leading phone companies have warned.

Telecommunications firms said a number of issues would need to be resolved. Picture: TSPL
Telecommunications firms said a number of issues would need to be resolved. Picture: TSPL

In an open letter, telecommunications chiefs warned that a number of “strategic and operational” factors would need to be resolved for their businesses if Scotland votes to separate from the UK. It said they may need to modify networks and consider whether to modify the services offered in an independent Scotland.

Services such as the roll-out of faster broadband to parts of Scotland could be affected.

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The letter is signed by the chief executives of BT Group, TalkTalk Group, Telefonica Uk (O2), Vodafone UK, EE and Three UK.

The companies said that they are committed to providing and investing in high-quality, affordable services to all of their customers in the UK and that this will be “completely unaffected” by the outcome of the independence referendum.

However they said that a number of issues would need to be resolved.

The letter states: “Specifically, we would need to know how a Scottish telecoms industry would be regulated. Would there be continuity with the current European Union regulatory framework so that we would continue to operate across the border with common infrastructure under a single set of rules? “What approach would the government of an independent Scotland take to the radio spectrum – currently licensed on a UK-wide basis – without which mobile networks cannot operate?

“We may also need to modify our networks to reflect the reality of an independent Scotland; and we may need to consider whether to modify the services offered in Scotland, given its relatively demanding topography and relatively low population density. Any of these factors could lead to increased industry costs.”

The companies said that they remain “fully committed” to their customers, employees and operations in Scotland whatever the result of the referendum on Thursday.

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: “This is a powerful intervention from the largest mobile and broadband firms in the country.

“We now have clear warnings from some of the largest employers in Scotland – Asda, John Lewis, B&Q, Marks and Spencer, Timpson, BT, TalkTalk, Iceland, O2, Vodafone, EE, Three and others – that costs for everyday things would go up if we leave the UK.

“No doubt the nationalists will promise another day of reckoning for these firms, but the people of Scotland are more rational and pragmatic about these things. We don’t deny the reality. Being part of the UK keeps costs down for families here in Scotland.”