By Sean Martin
Another piece of scaremongering by the anti-independence campaign has been debunked today following a European Parliament vote to abolish mobile phone roaming charges, the SNP has said.
Today’s vote in Brussels will see an end to roaming fees by 2016. The reform will phase out such charges across the European Union and aims to bolster consumer protections on mobile and broadband contracts.
The decision was part of a wider vote in support to the European Commission’s proposed regulation for a “connected continent” – a single market for telecoms throughout the EU by means of banning, blocking and degrading internet content, coordinating spectrum licensing for wireless broadband and making it easier for consumers to switch providers.
Vice president of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes, said the move is about ensuring EU citizens do not get “ripped-off”.
“This is what the EU is all about – getting rid of barriers to make life easier and less expensive,” she said. “Nearly all of us depend on mobile and internet connections as part of our daily lives. We should know what we are buying, we should not be ripped-off, and we should have the opportunity to change our mind”
It comes less than a year after the Westminster Government claimed Scots would face roaming fees when travelling throughout the rest of the UK. The contention was ridiculed at the time, with Mike Weir MP condemning it as an “embarrassing own goal” and the Scottish Conservatives deputy leader, Jackson Carlaw, calling it “a bit silly”.
In June last year, UK Business Secretary Vince Cable had warned that making a mobile phone call in England would see Scots hit by so-called roaming charges, causing the cost of the call to soar.
According to a briefing note circulated by Number 10 Downing Street: “People from one country using their handset in the other could incur international roaming charges when travelling. Calls 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.”
With the EU expecting final agreement on the matter to be reached with its member states by the end of this year, SNP party president, Ian Hudghton MEP, recalled last year’s claims.
He said: “The claim that people in Scotland would face roaming charges was without doubt one of the silliest scare stories the anti-independence campaign has come up with and today’s vote in the European Parliament leaves them looking even more foolish.”
Hudghton, 62, also highlighted The Guardian’s April Fools’ story, which claimed people in Scotland would be required to drive on the right following independence. However it later emerged that Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham had actually made a similar claim in an interview with Holyrood magazine in September last year.
During the interview, Burnham said: “I would feel really genuinely sad if Scotland votes for independence, not just for our own self-interest and in the extra difficulty we would face getting a Labour government in England, but I also don’t want to drive up the M6 and get my passport out or have to drive on the right when I want to drive on the left.”