Skip To The Main Content

Barra firms back in business after FSB intervention

Campaigning by FSB has helped to restore a mobile phone signal to the remote Scottish island of Barra, after problems with equipment left it without service for three months in the run-up to the busiest time of the year.

The island, in the Outer Hebrides, has a population of around 1,300 and depends heavily on tourism, with the summer months being the peak season.

Many businesses found their services disrupted as a result of the outage. The airport café, for example, relies on guests phoning in to book lunch parties, but does not have a landline. Others found themselves, through no fault of their own, on the wrong end of unfavourable reviews on TripAdvisor.

One of the companies affected was the Isle of Barra Beach Hotel. “Guests were coming in and couldn’t get mobile reception, and some had family members who weren’t well,” said Joan Irvin, Hotel Manager, who led the campaign on the island on behalf of local businesses and residents.

“We had doctors and nurses staying with us who were on call and couldn’t stay in touch with the hospital. It had a huge impact on us and on other businesses.”

After initial steps to persuade EE to investigate the problem proved unsuccessful, FSB stepped in, writing to EE’s Chairman to highlight the damage to local businesses and securing press coverage in The Times, BBC Radio Scotland and local media in the North of Scotland.

EE made several unsuccessful attempts but have now restored service. “We’re able to make calls, but it’s still not 100 per cent on Wi-Fi,” added Ms Irvin. “FSB played a huge part, so I’m very grateful.”

Local FSB Western Isles Chairman Alistair Maclennan led FSB’s work on the island. “Mobile phones have become vital tools for all businesses operating in the sparsely populated Western Isles, and especially for tourism businesses and their customers,” he said. “A service failure such as this can spoil visitors’ holidays and their memories of them, and damage local businesses operating for very short seasons in fragile areas.”