Scotland split 'threatens to raise mobile and post costs'

With 444 days to go before a referendum, the coalition steps up pressure against independence

Scotland would be left without a six-day postal service and poorer mobile phone and broadband coverage if it left the UK, new analysis by the coalition claims today as it steps up pressure against independence.

People living in a newly independent Scotland could be faced with roaming charges when they crossed the border into England, and even those with homes south of the border could incur charges if their phones connected with a mast on the other side, the report claims.

The Consumer Affairs minister, Jo Swinson, who has a Scottish constituency, will publish the latest in a series setting out the case for keeping the union together. Last night the report provoked anger from the Scottish government, who said it stoked unnecessary alarm.

There are still 444 days to go until a referendum, but the Westminster government is releasing the reports to claim people and businesses in Scotland would be worse off in all aspects of everyday life.

Under economies of scale, Scotland benefits from being part of a UK-wide single market, the report says, and splitting up the integrated communications infrastructure could burden Scottish businesses and consumers with poorer services and higher charges. Scotland would no longer be part of the Post Office network and would cease to benefit from the UK government's commitment to provide broadband and mobile coverage in rural areas. Services would be less reliable and attract higher charges.

The report says telecoms suppliers find it "commercially challenging to supply thinly spread populations, unless these are balanced with areas of higher population density". It adds: "So commercial investment and innovation in a standalone Scottish telecommunications network could be reduced from current levels."

However, even at present, broadband coverage in rural Scotland is not 100 per cent. Westminster is spending £530m over the next three years on a rural broadband programme. A "Yes" to independence vote in 2014 would see that funding cut off, Ms Swinson will say.

The report warns there could be international roaming charges for people from newly independent Scotland travelling into the rest of the UK. It says: "Callers on both sides of the border could inadvertently incur international roaming charges if their mobile phone connected to a mast on the other side of the border."

The report claims that the Royal Mail's six-day service, which goes beyond the minimum EU standard of five days, would end for Scotland. It says: "Creating a border could impact on the cost of sending a letter or package between Scotland and the continuing UK. It could also affect the level of service provision, including the time it takes to deliver between the two territories, potentially harming... domestic trade and provision of goods and services. The UK-wide postal network helps deliver a comprehensive provision of services – supporting more than 90 per cent of Scottish rural or small businesses that use or rely on the Royal Mail's provision of the universal postal service. Royal Mail employs some 11,500 people in Scotland. Independence could mean the guaranteed provision of the universal service stopping at the border."

Ms Swinson said: "The UK's integrated infrastructure connects people and communities, creates jobs and supports trade. The Government is committed to maintaining world-class postal and broadband services.... The rural broadband programme will deliver investment of £109m to Scottish communities that depend on getting connected. If Scotland left the UK, posting a letter or making a call could cost more, and there could be less choice for customers."

The Scottish government rejected the report, saying Westminster governments had already "substantially weakened" Scotland's communications infrastructure and that the Royal Mail had already insisted there would be no disruption to service under independence.

A spokesman said: "Since 2002, more than 400 Scottish post offices have closed and plans for privatisation of Royal Mail threaten jobs and the operation of the universal service obligation, while people across rural Scotland regularly struggle with the lack of mobile coverage.

"Independence will provide an opportunity to properly support the postal network with access to our fair share of UK assets, and... the Scottish government has an excellent record of supporting rural post offices. Both the Royal Mail and the Federation of Post Masters are clear that... independence could offer real opportunities for the network.

"Similarly, the UK's claims fail to recognise key changes in the telecoms market. Currently, the fragmentation of mobile and broadband initiatives, and the reserved nature of telecoms policy and regulation, prevents us from realising the economic benefits that could be achieved through improving digital connectivity."

The spokesman added that "the EU is looking to remove roaming charges completely and they are widely expected to be abolished well before 2016. Independence could ensure that the regulatory and policy regimes are better aligned to achieve this."

Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits