Nearly half of the constituencies in Scotland have poor mobile phone signals and broadband connection due to a substandard technology network, data has revealed.

According to the analysis, of 269 areas in the UK with the worst mobile and broadband service, 29 were in Scotland – amounting to around half of all the parliamentary constituencies in the country.

HeraldScotland: Camley's Cartoon: Superfast broadband delayed.Camley's Cartoon: Superfast broadband delayed.

The study, which covered all 650 constituencies across the UK, found that the four worst areas for mobile coverage are all in Scotland.  

Five of the 10 areas with the poorest broadband service are also in Scotland.   
The consumer group Which? has now called on the government to introduce connectivity target-driven action to improve “inadequate mobile and internet connections, as their research also revealed people in more than one in three UK constituencies do not have access to decent 4G or broadband services.

It recommends removing barriers to speedy and effective broadband roll-out programmes, including a legal requirement for new-build homes to be built with gigabit-capable connections.

The research comes after it emerged that the SNP’s flagship £600 million pledge to bring superfast broadband to every home and office in the country could be delivered three years late.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles) came bottom of the Which? mobile coverage table as they had just 42.35 per cent of premises with 4G access. Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross had the second worst service at 59.29%, followed by Ross, Skye and Lochaber (60.72%) and Orkney & Shetland (61.56%).

Orkney & Shetland had the worst broadband service in the UK, with just three in four premises with access to Ofcom’s definition of a decent connection – a download speed of at least 10mpbs with 1mbps upload.

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Ross, Skye & Lochaber had the second worst broadband quality with one in eight unable to access a decent connection while Na h-Eileanan an Iar was found to have the third worst service as 81.2% can obtain decent speeds.
Caroline Normand, Which? director of advocacy, said: “For far too long, people have felt cut off and struggled to pay bills or receive important calls and messages because of poor mobile and broadband connections.

“The next government must finally deliver the strategy needed to connect the whole of the UK with the comprehensive digital infrastructure that communities urgently need while ensuring that consumers have a choice of providers so that they can see real improvements.”

In evidence to Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee in April, Ofcom’s chief technology officer, Mansoor Hanif, admitted that meeting targets for mobile coverage would be difficult.

Mobile companies were expected to provide 95% of geographical coverage by 2022 but this target poses specific challenges in Scotland, according to Mr Hanif.

While it has been proposed to set a target of 74% for mobile coverage across Scotland, Mr Hanif said that the geography of Scotland’s mountainous areas makes this difficult with existing technology.

Broadband has become a key issue in this election, with the main parties competing over who can produce the most eye-catching plan to entice voters. 
The Conservatives have pledged an investment of £5 billion to cover the whole of the UK with “gigabit-capable” broadband services by 2025.

They have also promised to finalise a £1bn agreement with mobile phone operators to build new  phone masts to improve mobile services in hard-to-reach areas and has committed to spending £5bn on broadband and to helping to reach the most remote areas.

Meanwhile, Labour have set out a broadband pledge to nationalise BT’s Openreach division, invest £20.3bn in getting “full fibre” to everyone (FTTP) by 2030 and giving everyone free broadband. 

The Liberal Democrats have promised to invest in mobile data infrastructure and expand it to cover all homes and install hyper-fast, fibre-optic broadband across the UK.

The SNP has called for more investment from Westminster and a “shared rural network” to deliver 95% 4G mobile coverage in Scotland.

Which? said that while broadband is playing a pivotal role in the General Election, a “huge leap” is needed to improve connectivity as a whole. 

“The next government must ensure that mobile coverage is brought up to the level consumers deserve,” the consumer organisation said.

“Without an overarching vision for both fixed and mobile services shared by government, Ofcom and industry, and a cohesive strategy in which roles, responsibilities and timescales are clearly defined, many people will still risk losing out on the benefits of good quality connections.”

It said it wanted an “ambitious, joined-up strategy” to deliver improved digital infrastructure, “meeting the needs of people to be connected at home, at work and on the move”.