Conservationists have warned that a roll-out of mobile phone masts in Scotland’s wilder places could have a “severely detrimental” impact on the landscape. 

The National Trust for Scotland is calling for a greater protection and a joined-up approach to the expansion of 4G coverage to safeguard the country’s most scenic locations.  

The John Muir Trust and a coalition of community, conservation and outdoor groups have raised concerns about where some masts would be located, and also the tracks needed for accessing the infrastructure. 

The Shared Rural Network (SRN) aims to deliver reliable 4G mobile broadband to 95% of the UK, while tackling locations dubbed "Total Not Spots" 

The National Trust says these developments are often planned for places completely unsuited to telecommunications infrastructure and would have a detrimental impact on their stunning landscape and its ecology. 

The charity also warns that diesel-driven generators that provide power to the masts will provide a constant background noise in “tranquil” places. 

The Herald: A rural 4G mast 

Applications the Trust has opposed include plans to place a mast in the Coire Mhic Nobuil, Torridon, in the heart of the Torridon National Scenic Area, and also within the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate National Nature Reserve. 

In an objection made to Highland Council’s Planning Department, the National Trust for Scotland says that the Torridon mast would significantly impact the landscape and undermine people’s experience and enjoyment of it.  

Any structure would be highly visible to those walking throughout most of Coire Mhic Nobuil and from the ridges and peaks of the most iconic hills in the area including Ben Alligin, the Horns of Alligin, Liathach, West Beinn Eighe range, Sail Mhor and Conneach Mhor.  

READ MORE: Helicopter delivers Islay 4G mast

The plan would also require obtrusive changes to the footpath, “undoing decades of sensitive work” to restore the 14 km path,  

Stuart Brooks, the National Trust for Scotland’s Director of Conservation & Policy said: “The National Trust for Scotland understands that connectivity is vital to support thriving rural communities and we’re more than happy to work with providers to find appropriate places for their facilities. 

“We are deeply concerned by the approach being taken at the moment which seems to take no account of the nature, beauty and heritage of many locations. 

“We are calling for urgent discussions to take place between government, stakeholders, communities of interest and the Shared Rural Network project teams to ensure that national targets and overall approach is reviewed and proposals within Scotland’s highly sensitive and internationally valued landscapes are stopped.” 

The Herald: The Torridon Hills

He added: “We can help providers find sites for masts and associated infrastructure in places where they can bring benefits to communities, while protecting the ecology, stunning landscape and views for everyone enjoying the tranquility and unspoilt nature of these places. 

“Scotland’s beautiful places and views are amongst its most valuable assets, and we all have a responsibility to ensure that they are protected for everyone.” 

READ MORE: Business leaders push SNP Government on 5G R100

Bob Brown, the National Trust for Scotland’s Upland Path Manager said: “This landscape, loved by many, will be blighted by such a structure.  

“It will be visible during the entire traverse of the Coire Mhic Nobuil path, and at many other points. In the Footpath Team we have worked to ensure the path and landscaping are as sensitively designed as possible, to ensure that the site retains its wild sense. 

“The attention to detail and care in creating such work will be pointless if this goes ahead.” 

The Herald: Bob Brown 

Last month, climbers and outdoors groups reacted angrily to plans for a 20m (67ft) high communications mast near a famous mountain pass. 

The proposed site at Luibeg Bridge is near paths leading to the 19-mile (30km) Lairig Ghru in the Cairngorms National Park. 

Communications company WHP Telecoms said the planning application had been withdrawn temporarily so supplementary information could be provided to address concerns. 

The company added it expected the application would be re-submitted at a later date. 

The John Muir Trust said there was community opposition to new masts on the Knoydart peninsula in the West Highlands. 

Trust spokeswoman Fiona Baillie told the BBC two masts were also planned for Glen Affric, a large area of mountains and woodland south of Inverness. 

She said: "This is a partial ‘not spot’. There is some network coverage in area, but it is not provided by all four of the mobile operators. 

"In our view there shouldn't be any need for new masts in this location and yet we are seeing proposals for two masts, including access tracks." 

The Herald:

The UK government said local authorities had responsibility for approving applications for masts, and added that the planning process was considerate of areas of natural beauty. 

It said publicly-funded masts were shared by the four operators involved. 

A spokesperson said: "Publicly-funded SRN masts in rural areas of Scotland will facilitate 999 calls for the first time, allowing first responders to reach people in need of emergency assistance. 

They added: "At each potential mast location, there is an individual assessment taking account of a wide range of factors including consideration to areas of natural beauty. 

"All new masts will, of course, then go through the proper planning process."