Iona Community Council
Minutes of the quarterly meeting held online via Zoom on Thursday 4 March 2021 at 7.30pm
Present: Shiona Ruhemann (convening), Toben Lewis (minutes), Jane Martin, Dot Stewart, Rob MacManaway, 1 guest, 31 members of the public
Apologies: Mark Jardine, Morven Gibson
Visitors: Emily Wilkins, NTS
Minutes of the previous meeting: signed off without further amendments
Jane Martin —
ICC has worked on short term lets consultations, engagement with Lorn Medical Practice on the island’s healthcare, wellbeing support, Boundary Commission, pier consultations, jetty condition, parking charges petition, A&B Council consultations, serious concerns with Island Community Impact Assessment guidance and follow up meeting with Islands Minister, gave a donation to the catamaran assessment fund, engaged with Mull Community Council, Jenni Minto, and Time for Change.
Please use ICC group email address (email@example.com) to contact us about Community Council matters. A&BC has agreed to extend the temporary departure from the Scheme for the Establishment of CCs which includes the ability to meet remotely and gives flexibility for duties.
Neil Bruce —
Update on A+B Council budget announcements.
Council tax is frozen for next year. Council was very keen to promote the investment it’s making from April, funds coming from Crown Estate, will be going into Tobermory car park, recovery and renewal post-COVID, arts and culture and tourism promotion, supporting wellbeing of young.
Council expects there to be a reduction in income from ferries and car parking, fish landings, and berthing.
They are looking to sell a piece of land adjoining the Pier House at Fionnphort. Still intend to progress pier works at Fionnphort and Iona.
Classroom assistants and toilets were not cut in the recent budget.
There will be some rate increases, including harbour fees.
Some discussion about parking charges going up, not clear on what this means for car parks with existing charges.
New fees for electrical vehicle charging but no further information.
Looking to introduce fees for meetings (eg with planning department).
Permits, licenses, temporary TROs will all increase in cost.
Shiona Ruhemann —
On the issues of parking charges, ICC has continued to work hard to secure a permanent solution to the threat of parking charges at lifeline ferry ports, including through the ongoing process of our public Petition being considered by the Parliamentary Public Petitions Committee. Throughout nearly two years of consideration of our Petition – and multiple submissions from us – no substantive argument has been raised against it. On the contrary, all members of the Committee and the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and Islands have supported the principle. Yet, despite universal acceptance of its rightness and fairness, they have still not addressed the Petition in practice, and its consideration had to be withdrawn at the last meeting as the relevant part of Scottish Govt had failed to respond to the Committee. Continuing to do all we can on this.
Moya Pringle asked about island roads and potholes. NB noted there was an increased expenditure on roads in the budget. It was suggested that potholes could be reported on the A+BC website (https://argyllandbute.custhelp.com/app/RA/Road_Defect).
Iona Village Hall Community Trust
Joanne MacInnes —
Completion date is 24 March. Currently being held up by utilities not being hooked up.
There has been a massive budget hole due to COVID of £200k. Some savings have been identified and further support has been given, the gap left is £25k.
Looking for small video vignettes of thanks for Corramore and subcontractors for the work they have done.
Looking at how to mark the official opening with COVID regulations in place. Open to ideas, please speak to Committee if you have any. Also looking further into summer when we may be able to gather.
Adapt and Thrive funded activities include picnic benches and tent for use on the Garadh Marsaili, walking and running group, kids football, forest school, and young women’s group. Hoping to get more funding to continue these for a couple more months.
Continue to meet with MICT, SWMID, NWMCW, Tobermory Harbours to distribute funding and share ideas. Has proven very useful link.
Waterfall Fund has distributed over £40k to community groups and hardship funds.
Shiona Ruhemann —
We’ve continued to work through the massive COVID impacts on the project with Scottish Govt.
We’ve now made a request through our MSP and the Energy & Islands Minister:
We’ve asked that we don’t continue down the route of an alternative strategy, which we stress would not be a community energy project, because everyone accepts that the only possible viable community project is the Heat Network;
We’ve asked that we instead pause and resume on a different footing from around May this year and reconsider options at that point, when the current incredible uncertainty is a bit more resolved, and with the readymade community Heat Network as the primary option.
Over the past 2.5 years we’ve held absolutely firm against all manner of challenges to the community project and been proven right on every one of them – including on island capital costs, viability of ground source technology, and (non)viability of any alternatives
At the start of lockdown, we’d secured the full funding for the Heat Network and without COVID would be completing construction right now. COVID is the sole reason that the project hasn’t been able to proceed – specifically a big surge in the components that have to be loan funded, and can’t be funded by public sector grant.
Scottish Government has assured us that our incredibly hard-won funding remains in place, and we have tried very hard over recent months to pursue an alternative to the Heat Network – and also in parallel to secure non-public sector grant to fill the COVID funding gap on the Heat Network
We initially tried to move very fast, assuming that we’d otherwise lose everything – especially due to the Renewable Heat Incentive subsidy coming to an end; but it became clear that the current RHI scheme is not the driving consideration; and, despite trying very hard to support it, we’re very unconvinced about the substance and the approach to delivering an alternative solution, and its potential to achieve outcomes
We’ve had a lot of external advice and reached the conclusion that:
- We need to pause and recommence around May when COVID/replacement to RHI/BREXIT etc are more resolved
- We would like to work from that point with Scottish Govt’s Community & Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES), with whom we’ve worked from the beginning and who have the right approach to working with communities
- We’ve requested that the Heat Network is the primary option on the table given that:
- The barriers to the Heat Network are transitory (i.e., COVID impacts on costs plus current RHI coming to an end);
- Scottish and UK Govts have huge low carbon heat commitments to meet;
- There will have to be some sort of replacement to Renewable Heat Incentive, and initial advice is that there is likely to be compatibility between the project and proposed replacements;
- Scottish Govt also now has major commitments on heat networks specifically, to increase their deployment from meeting <2% of heat requirements to 18%;
- We have a readymade exemplar community heat network project on Iona that is exhaustively tested and supports all of these priorities
Our MSP has been very supportive, as he has been throughout. We’re therefore preparing for a pause. There are various other things going on but that’s the most important.
Mull and Iona Ferry Committee
Finlay MacDonald —
Couple of issues have come up locally.
First is CalMac policy to ask all travelers if their travel is essential. Position is that this is CalMac wide and will remain. Has been upsetting some but they will not refuse to carry anyone so please just say your travel is essential and carry on.
The early and late sailings appear to be even more vulnerable than what CalMac had indicated initially with the change of the operating envelope. It’s hard to judge how much has been lost due to the poor spell of weather we have had and also because of decreased travel due to COVID. Will ask for cancellation statistics after the end of the winter timetable.
The winter timetable will run until 25 April. The summer timetable will still be altered to accommodate the longer turnaround time required for COVID cleaning. Transport links should still work. Iona timetable should be roughly as we would normally expect.
Does not think that the increase in pier dues will knock onto ferry fares.
Thank you to anyone who donated to the catamaran fund. Despite asking the government to delay their decision by 10 days to get the bit of feasibility work done, the government has declared that the catamaran is not suitable. Carrying on with the work nonetheless. It is expected that the outcome would have proven the Government’s reasoning unfounded. If so it will prove that a catamaran would be suitable for this route, even if not this exact one. Government has indicated that this route will be fast tracked for vessel procurement.
Craignure Pier consultation has taken place with interim and long term options discussed. Interim option for lengthening the pier has largely been discounted, both for cost reasons and because it would not allow the Coruisk to berth. There were four long term solutions on offer, ICC feeling was that if all four options make no difference to ferry crew and the service then it’s a Craignure planning issue and the community there should have the weight of say.
Rhoda MacInnes commented on the board at the pier. FM noted that the messages on the board are network wide and won’t take into account that travel between Tier 3 areas is in fact allowed. Further discussion ensued around the catamaran.
Sound of Iona Harbours Committee
Finlay MacDonald —
Met with Council 2 or 3 weeks ago, environmental impact assessments are going to happen on both sides of Sound. Will delay project by nearly a year. Eight months of observations, followed by a report, and any necessary design changes. Hoping that February of next year is when tenders will go out. Work will take a year if run concurrently, if run consecutively the Iona side will happen the year after Fionnphort. Council has accepted the height was not necessary and intend to take it down by a couple metres. Different consultants have used different wave heights. Are currently working to define what wave height they will use to base designs on. This delays photo montages. Tunnels in breakwater wall has been accepted as a good idea to stop sedimentation buildup. Fionnphort will need to be higher than Iona side to protect berth, but may be able to solve some of the requirements by making it wider instead. Moorings in Fionnphort are being looked at to ensure that none will be affected by necessary dredging. Council is aware that they will need to be removed and replaced during that process.
Wee pier has a big section missing and the cracks in the upper and middle section have got worse. Mark Jardine reported this to the Council. They have sprung into action and sent through plans to go to tender tomorrow on very short notice. Work could potentially start mid-April and looks to be quite in depth so temporary measures may have to be in place. Gordon MacCormick also having a look at the plans to feedback to Council.
Stewart Clark (A+BC) is retiring at the end of this month, will be a loss as he’s been very helpful and responsive. Wish him all the best in his retirement.
Neil Bruce asked if a value has been put on the tender for the small pier. The amount will define how long the procurement process will take. There was no value on the documents sent over.
Iona Broadband Committee
Gordon MacCormick —
Scotland R-100 – Reaching 100%
The delivery contract for the North Lot was finally signed with BT Openreach on the 14th December last. The survey and design phase of the contract is currently underway, and that is expected to be complete by the end of August.
At that stage we will know, what is planned for Iona, on a premises by premises basis.
At the time of the contract signing, it was announced that 16 new subsea fibre cables were to be laid in the North Lot, and it has since been confirmed that one of those fibre cables will be laid between Fionnphort and Iona.
At the same time, it was stated that 86% of the connections in the North Lot would be full gigabit capable Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) connections.
Last week it was announced that the UK Government’s new £5bn Gigabit Broadband Programme had reached agreement with R100 Programme, to provide extra funding to enable R100 to replace planned, Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) connections, in the Central Lot, with gigabit capable FTTP connections.
It is now expected that the same process, and funding, will be used to increase the number of FTTP connections, in the North Lot, beyond the 86% already stated.
Fibre Cable Spine
At the time of the last update in December, much of the work on the fibre spine, down to the Ross of Mull, had been completed, but there was one section, in the Pennyghael area, that had been delayed by wayleave issues, and another section, between Ardfenaig and Fionnphort, that had been delayed by blocked ducting.
The wayleave issue, in the Pennyghael area, has now been resolved by Openreach making a minor adjustment to the route, but we are still awaiting an update on the blocked duct on the Fionnphort section.
Bendoran – Bunessan
EE have now installed their 4G antennae, radio cabinets, and other equipment at the Bendoran site.
Together with Openreach, they will now organise the various fibre circuits required, and are working to schedule an activation date which is currently forecast to be before the end of April.
Bruach Mor – Fionnphort
EE have now confirmed that the Fionnphort site will be fibre enabled and that their, Band 3, 4G service will be added to the mast.
They expect this to happen soon, but can’t currently provide a forecast date for when that will be.
Acharonich – Ulva Ferry
An increasing number of premises on the island are now successfully using EE’s Band 3, 4G signal, from Acharonich, for fixed home broadband, using a 4G router.
Download speeds in excess of 60Mbps can be achieved using SIM cards from EE, or BT Mobile.
SIM cards from EE’s other virtual network partners, and third party suppliers, will work on Band 3, but they are all restricted to some degree, and barred from accessing the fastest speeds on the network.
So, to access the full broadband capability of the network, a SIM card from EE, or BT Mobile, is required.
Iona Telephone Exchange
A situation arose recently where a customer’s broadband service had been mistakenly removed from their line, and on attempting to have it reinstated, their ISP was told by BT Wholesale, that it was not possible to reinstate the service, as the Iona exchange was now at full capacity; they had no plans to increase capacity, and the exchange was now closed to new broadband connections.
BT have now confirmed that there had been a miscommunication; that our exchange has not reached capacity, and that there are plenty of broadband connection slots still available.
Also, another customer recently attempted to move from their existing ISP, to BT Broadband. However, BT Broadband initially refused to take them on, stating that they could not guarantee the minimum broadband speed.
Both of those situations are now in the process of being resolved, but they are typical examples of the type of problems that many of us encounter when we try to sign up for a new broadband connection, or, to change Service Provider on an existing one.
The majority of those problems arise because the technology used in our island network prevents the correct information, about our network, being visible on BT’s systems.
Normal day to day broadband service problems that arise should, in the first instance, be raised with your ISP. If required, they will then deal with BT Wholesale, or Openreach, on your behalf.
However, if the information your ISP is receiving from BT is suspect, as above, or the problem is not able to be resolved through the normal process, then you should contact myself, or the Community Council. The issue will then be raised directly with BT.
Finlay MacDonald asked about Halo 3 from BT, which diverts to 4G is speeds are poor. Asked if that would work here. GM said they should work but would fall back to Fionnphort mast, which is not yet on the faster speed. Rhoda MacInnes said she spoke to BT this morning and there is an engineer coming on Saturday. She recounted her issues with her phone line. Dean Snell has been on with BT for hours trying to work on speed issues, who will only guarantee 1Mb on the island and will not log faults unless they are below this.
National Trust for Scotland
Emily Wilkins —
Still looking for caretaker cover for the Shelter. It cannot be offered as an employed position, needs to be self-employed or contract. Will have to remain locked until there is a solution in place.
The Trust is moving ahead with filling the Operations Manager post. Will oversee a number of west coast and island properties.
Have been contacted by a film crew for BBC1, who are focussing on community spirit and faith and spirituality. Looking for people who might want to get involved. If you would like something featured they would be happy for you to contact them.
Catriona Robertson —
The Abbey is planning to open on 29 May, regulations permitting.
There’s a slight feeling of déjà vu because we’ve put back our opening date once already. However, things look a lot more positive this year and we’re ready to go!
We rang in the Nuclear Ban Treaty in January – a major international achievement towards peace that the Iona Community has been campaigning on for decades.
Our official re-opening celebrations will take place during the first full week of June, around Columba Day. As you know, this year it’s the 1500th anniversary of Columba’s birth in Ireland. Whether it’s in-person, online or a blend of the two, there will be lots of activities which will contribute to the island-led IONA2021 campaign & VisitScotland’s Year of Coast & Waters 20/21. We hope that HES re-opens the Abbey to the public this year.
We’re moving from coal to sustainably sourced wood for our open fires and stoves. And we’re still trying to get a decent internet signal at the Abbey.
The BBC has also been in touch with us about Scotland’s Sacred Islands, the series that Emily mentioned.
Public worship continues every day in the Abbey Church, and on Sundays in partnership with the Parish Church & the Episcopal Church at Bishop’s House – and with the beautiful musical contributions of Jerry, Christine, Phil and Rachel – thank you all. During Lent we’re zooming a service from the Quiet Corner on Sundays at 9pm. Fresh bread continues to be baked each week in the Abbey kitchen and the shop is open each Friday from 11am until after 12 noon to pick up bread and to browse the books and other items for sale. Contact Lyn the shop manager if you’d like to shop at other times.
Anja Jardine and Sarah Macdonald are now back at work with the Community for the season, which is great. We’ll be a much smaller team at the Abbey this year, just six in the resident group, with volunteers joining us throughout the season.
We’re enjoying the Saturday walks, the Argyll teas and look forward to sitting under the white sail. Thank you to everyone who has organised the community events; it’s much appreciated as the lockdown continues.
Bénédicte Scholefield —
We are hoping to have two of the island properties available (Shuna and Cul Dunsmeorach) as part of a project called Unlocked for holiday for people who have suffered greatly during lockdown. Working with partner agencies on identifying who would most benefit from this and raise funds for it.
Have finally reached the target for Abbey refurbishment capital appeal. Still raising money for the Community itself, which has been badly hit by COVID along with most other charities and businesses.
Mull and Iona Community Trust
Rob MacManaway –
Four new houses going up at Ulva Ferry, being part-built off site and shipped in. Hoping that everyone will be in by next month.
In the process of buying the Old School House in Pennyghael, will be up for long term let.
Iona Business Forum
Dot Stewart —
No comments or issues have been raised. Most just waiting to see when they may be able to open. Bishop’s House is not planning on having groups at least initially this year, the flat will be offered as self catering and potentially B&B in the rest of the house.
Katy Russon attended the MCC meeting last night. They will be lobbying for support for B&Bs and for funding during the level systems (ie if the rest of the country is in a higher level than we are, people would not be able to come here and financial assistance should still be provided).
Jane Martin –
Small update from Morven. They have a small amount of funding toward a local tourism plan, are looking for members of the advisory group.
Jane Martin –
It appears that fortnightly surgeries have been happening, with the doctor staying on island as long as needed to see everyone.
Vaccinations are ongoing with another batch arriving this week.
Bénédicte Scholefield asked why they were being asked to go to Bunessan for the jag rather than the doctor coming here. JM responded that they are bound by the rules and need to cover an entire age group in one day, their capacity would be severely affected if they had to run clinics at both Bunessan and Iona.
Jane Martin –
3 year project run by the School of Humanities at the University of Glasgow. One of the researchers is Dr Mairi MacArthur. Their aims are to create an online interactive web resource on Iona, Staffa and Ross of Mull place names. Publish a volume in 2023 as part of the Survey of Scottish Place Name series and also a popular guide for visitors. They are setting up a knowledge exchange liaison group to help capture the names and will hold events to share the outcomes.
Jane Martin –
1500 years since birth of Columba, a series of events are happening. A very good website has the events and further info. Received a letter from Kells in Ireland who are keen to hook into any events here. Let us know if you have anything to suggest or contribute.