Police radios disrupted by power cuts


A MAJOR police force has twice been left without radio cover after power cuts knocked out a £3bn communications system.

Lothian and Borders Police have admitted officers were briefly left without working radios and this “could have delayed the deployment of officers to incidents”.

The head of the force’s police board said any potential delay in responding to emergencies was a “serious” issue.

The Airwave radio system, which can carry high levels of data and is resistant to hacking, was introduced to all Scottish forces in 2005.

But Lothian and Borders, responding to a Freedom of Information request, said there had been problems in the past year.

The force said in a statement: “There have been a small number of instances when the ‘Airwave’ radio service has had to fall over to its standby equipment, so transmissions were interrupted for approximately 2 minutes.”

They added: “But this was a regional problem rather than just a local Lothian and Borders Police issue.”

The force conceded: “It is possible that this could have delayed the deployment of officers to incidents.”

Councillor Iain Whyte, convener of Lothian and Borders Police Board, said: “Any delayed response to a 999 call is serious no matter what the cause.

“Obviously getting Airwave right and making sure the radio system is in place is very important.”

He added: “Any failures are a great disappointment. Thankfully there are very few of them.

“I would be urging police to work with others work with others who use the system to resolve any problems.”



The introduction of Airwave was delayed due to reception problems with handsets in Edinburgh city centre, North Berwick and East Lothian.

There were also initial problems with emergency buttons which officers can use to call for help.

When the system was first tested, it took eight seconds for an emergency message to go out.

Scottish paramedics and firefighters also use the system.

Airwave said power cuts affecting a mast in the North East of England led to the disruption, which they said affected all three emergency services.

A spokeswoman said: “There were two incidents in the last 12 months in Lothian and Borders where, for example, power outages affected the network. The network did not fail.

“Airwave’s tried and tested backup systems were activated, meaning that there was minimal interruption to emergency service communications.”


‘Brief failures’

Lothian and Borders Police said: “On a small number of occasions, officers have reported brief failures to their Airwave system, which were a result of problems with a mast in the North East of England.

“These rare and short-lasting failures had no significant impact on policing operations.”

In a separate case, 999 coverage to parts of Scotland was lost for a period on Monday evening due to a phone fault.

Northern Constabulary reported service in the Highlands town of Strathkanaird near Ullapool restored in the early hours of this morning.

The problem was with 999 services affecting all phones, a police spokeswoman said.