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A couple in their 80s who live in a remote glen near Invergarry say they have been left without a vital phone lifeline for the last two months.
Since the end of June, John and Mabel Sloggie have had over 15 fruitless visits from various engineers to their home five miles along Glengarry, prompting Kate Forbes MSP to call for the telecoms giant to urgently intervene and fix the problem.
Mr Sloggie, who also runs one of Scotland’s few shinty stick businesses and who has had a quadruple bypass and a new heart valve fitted, says it is vital he and his wife, also 80, are able to ring an ambulance in the case of an emergency.
The lack of a phone line has also hampered Mr Sloggie’s business, Munro Camans Ltd, which is one of Scotland’s few shinty stick businesses, as potential customers have struggled to get hold of him due to the ongoing fault.
Mr Sloggie says representatives from BT, Openreach and SSE have proposed to come on site at the end of next month to diagnose the problem, but both he and his MSP say this is completely unsatisfactory.
Mr Sloggie commented: ‘I need the phone. I have a mobile, but I can’t rely on the signal. I need the landline in case my heart goes wrong so I can call the doctor, and my son regularly phones to check how we’re doing.
‘We’re both in our eighties. We’ve paid every bill on time and I just don’t think it’s good enough to have to wait nine weeks for them to fix a fault. Words can’t really express how I feel.
‘They are strangling a business. We’ve been here for 40 years, and 38 of them we have been getting on fine with the cables going overhead, and now they are underground there are countless problems.’
Ms Forbes added: ‘It is a very poor show by BT and Openreach to leave an elderly couple without a phone line for over two months.
‘Mr and Mrs Sloggie live up a remote glen, with very few neighbours, and they rely on their phone line. They have been passed from pillar to post and are still waiting for the line to be fixed.
‘Mr Sloggie has a very successful business, but he is dependent on the phone to bring in business and secure orders. How many customers have been unable to reach him?
‘This is an absurd situation for a couple who have paid their bills regularly. If Mr and Mrs Sloggie are being treated like this, how many other elderly Highland couples living in remote areas are left isolated and abandoned by poor customer service?
‘They are not the first couple I’ve encountered who’ve been left stranded for weeks at a time and BT need to sort out their customer service.’
Mr Sloggie says it seemed to be an attitude of ‘take it or leave it’ from the phone companies. ‘When you phone up about a fault you get through to a call centre in India or Ireland and then have to hang on for 15 or 20 minutes when you are using a mobile – last time it cost me £13.
‘We keep being told it is our phone that is the problem with the result we’ve tried replacing our phone twice now and it’s still not working.
‘It would’ve been easier to track down the Scarlet Pimpernel than find the right person at BT or Openreach to speak to over all of this.’
Local MSP Kate Forbes paid a visit to John and Mabel Sloggie to hear firsthand about their concerns.
NO F35 Sloggies with Kate