South Scotland MSP Emma Harper has urged telecom companies to introduce flat-rate telephone calls to help keep people in touch with family members, friends, neighbours and support services for the duration of the restrictions which have been put in place in order to limit the number of people who will contract Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Many telecom companies regularly hike their prices, particularly for day time calls, which means people are put off using the phone during the day because of the cost implications of doing so.

Ms Harper has said that in rural areas of Scotland, in particular Dumfries and Galloway, access to a phone at a reasonable price is an essential lifeline for many of her constituents, a lifeline which will become intensified in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The South Scotland MSP also said that the phone – as well as other online methods of communication – are essential tools in helping to tackle social isolation and loneliness, particularly amongst those at risk groups, including elderly people and people with underlying health conditions who are being asked to isolate for a 12 week period.

Commenting, Ms Harper said:

“In light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and restrictions on people’s ability to interact in person with others to reduce the number of people contracting the virus, I am urging all telecom businesses to introduce a flat rate cost for calls.

“Due to the Scottish and UK Government joint message to stay at home, I recognise that the phone is an essential tool – particularly for rural areas such as many communities across Dumfries and Galloway – and allows people in these difficult times to keep in contact with their families, friends and companions. It also means people can call essential services for support and information – as well as for medical and financial advice.

“As has been repeated by both the Scottish and UK Governments, now is a time where all of us – people, communities and businesses – must come together to support one another and to, as far as possible, make life easier for our most vulnerable in society. I therefore hope that telecom companies take forward this request and introduce flat rate calls which will be extremely helpful, particularly to many of my elderly and vulnerable constituents, across Dumfries and Galloway and wider South Scotland.

“If any constituent is experiencing any issue with their service providers, or if they are looking for any advice and support, then I would urge them to get in touch with my office where I and my staff will be able to help.”