Saturday 25 November 2023

Wild land in Scotland threatened by a blight of communications masts

The wild north side of Liathach. A mast is proposed for this area.

The latest threat to our mountains comes from communication masts, many of which are planned for remote areas in the Scottish hills where there are no communities or houses for them to service, just wild land to sully and spoil.

Why does this crazy scheme exist? Why is time and money being spent to build masts where they will benefit nobody?

The reason is that the UK government has a set a target to bring 4G mobile network coverage to 95% of the geographical UK. Not 95% of people, 95% of land, even if there are no people there.

As concerns for the effects of this on our wild land grow a coalition of Mountaineering Scotland, the John Muir Trust and the Knoydart Foundation has written to Ofcom Scotland and the UK Government’s Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure. The coalition asks anyone concerned to write to the Minister too.  (Sir John Whittingdale – There is more information about the coalition and its campaign on the Mountaineering Scotland website and on the John Muir Trust website.

I think it’s also worthwhile writing to MPs for the areas concerned whether you are their constituent or not, but especially if one is your MP (MPs not MSPs as this is a UK scheme, not one devolved to Scotland). My MP is Drew Hendry, MP for inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey. He will be getting a letter!

The coalition members make it clear that they support digital connectivity for people and communities but for that the masts needs to be in the right places. David Black, Mountaineering Scotland’s Access and Conservation Officer, says “We want to ensure digital connectivity is achieved while protecting Scotland’s last wild landscapes”. Mike Daniels, Head of Policy at the John Muir Trust, says “We want 100% digital connectivity for people and communities in rural Scotland, rather than 95% coverage on a map. That is why we are asking the UK Government, Ofcom and the operators to prioritise proposals where the mast signal would provide coverage and associated connectivity benefits for rural residents’ homes and business premises, and gaps along the road network.”

Nick Kempe and George Allan have looked at many of the proposals and reveal just how intrusive they will be in a series of posts on Parkswatch Scotland.

In two posts they give details of specific schemes which really show how bad and ill-thought-out they are. The first is in the heart of Torridon, in the remote area between Liathach and Beinn Dearg. This is National Trust for Scotland land and also a National Scenic Area and a Wild Land Area. The magnificent walk round the back of Liathach goes right past the proposed site. A mast here is completely inappropriate and unacceptable. It would not serve any local people.

Luibeg Bridge

The second scheme is in the Cairngorms by the Luibeg Bridge in the area between the Lairig Ghru and Glen Derry. This is deep in the hills and again would not serve anybody. Thankfully it has been called in by the Cairngorms National Park Authority.

In these cases the authors suggest objecting to the plans and give details how to do so. However whilst it doesn’t take long to do so there are so many other mast applications it could take a while to cover them all. What’s needed is an organised campaign against the proposals in general. The coalition mentioned above is a start but other organisations like the National Trust for Scotland need to be involved and there needs to be far more publicity (hence this post). We need to shout about this on social media and in emails and letters to MPs and the Minister.


  1. My request for a planning refusal has already gone in to the Highland Council for the Torridon application. Chris, let's not shy away from the truth here...this all about money as usual. The telecoms companies are making millions out of this scheme regardless whether some of the masts are actually of any use to anyone.