Iona Community Council
Minutes of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and quarterly meeting held in Iona Library on Monday 3 June 2019 at 8.00pm
Present: Shiona Ruhemann (convening), Toben Lewis (minutes), Jane Martin, Rob MacManaway, Mark Jardine, 25 members of the public
Apologies: John MacInnes
Minutes of the previous meeting: signed off without further amendments
Reports and updates
AGM Report and Finance Records
Jane Martin –
Over the last twelve months ICC has held four public meetings in the usual pattern of June, September, December and March.
We have used Mailchimp for over a year now to share information in between meetings and I hope you have found this useful. We try to send out a bundle of information at a time in order to reduce the number of emails in your inbox. However, the ICC itself receives lots more – in May I counted 63.
ICC has a pretty varied remit and tonight’s agenda covers many of our regular topics. We hear from a range of organisations – some ICC committees such as permits and broadband and thanks to Mhairi and Gordon for their work on these – some island based such as IVHCT, IC, SWMID and MICT; some local like Argyll and Bute Council and others with a national remit like NTS and CalMac. We’ve engaged with other CCs and also elected representatives at all levels. Some of us have been on TV.
I went through recent minutes and emails and wrote a list of topics we’ve covered and discussed. I had thought about a word cloud and imagined parking and permits being huge but then realised if I listed them alphabetically bins became top. This is my favourite as my sent box and camera roll can demonstrate. There are lots – boil notice from Scottish Water, drainage, roads (rather than potholes), planning, health, ferries, piers, timetables and breakwaters, First Responders, Islands Bill, Renewables and even welcomed a special visitor last AGM – the swallow.
We do get some odd contact and I’m keeping details of that for my memoirs. I did find myself explaining who I was and what that meant to one correspondent and thought it worth sharing. This is from the Scottish Government website.
‘CC are the most local tier of statutory representation in Scotland. They bridge the gap between local authorities and communities and help to make public bodies aware of the opinions and needs of the communities they represent. There are 1200 active CCs in Scotland.’
Thanks for coming along and making it all work.
Rob MacManaway –
Last year accounts started ~£8500 and finished at ~£4500. Main income notice board, main expense was Village Hall. Copies of accounts available.
Special thanks to John MacLean for auditing the accounts.
Reports from organisations:
Iona Village Hall Community Trust
Gordon Bruce –
After a 3 month delay by LEADER, we got the green light to go ahead and try to get our (very high) tendered prices back down towards budget.
As this is a very strict, highly-sensitive process, we can't expand on that at this stage but suffice to say there will be LOTS of behind-the-scenes activity over the next 2-3 weeks – all being well with that, the works on site could commence very quickly.
The build programme is extremely tight, in order to prevent us from stretching beyond the end of the EU monies, hence the need for us to be extra-ready for them arriving on site.
Later this month we expect to start removing stuff we’re keeping, and taking up of floor.
It’s our intention to have a closing event (although no details yet!)
Anja is negotiating the possibility of the Mac as a suitable space for some groups – mostly ‘regular’ ones like circuits, school, etc. This will have to be more tightly controlled than at present due to the fact that the IC are still using the Mac.
Calendar: 12 Local photographers, On sale at Oran, the IC shop, and both hotels. If any B&B’s, etc want some to sell please let me know.
Leaflets etc: we need to keep the pressure up this year. I have loads of leaflets, posters, collecting tins, etc, if anyone wants any.
Shiona Ruhemann –
Provided update in May to everyone signed up to the Heat Network project:
In summary, mixed news:
We’ve been awaiting a funding decision, following a request made directly by Scottish Government to Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to consider a significant grant to address the Heat Network funding gap. Having worked with HIE for months on extensive due diligence reviews, HIE has made a decision (not based on those diligence reviews) not to fund the Heat Network.
HIE’s decision is largely based on cost – although HIE confirmed that they didn’t assess cost in terms such as: evidence of the consistently exceptionally high costs of construction projects on Iona, as recently demonstrated again by the Village Hall’s experience of going out to tender; the full scope of the project as a combination of public, community, commercial and domestic buildings; and value for money compared to other projects (for instance, scale and cost of installed capacity of the Iona project compared to Fair Isle – i.e., Fair Isle is cited as good value for money, but the Iona Heat Network, which would entail a massive single-step energy transition on the island, costs a lot less and would install more capacity).
However, HIE is very supportive of the work, ambition and momentum on low carbon heat on Iona, and renewables more generally, and is committed to exploring options to support our work.
The support for delivering a heat scheme for Iona is confirmed at the highest level, with direct involvement of the Energy Minister, our MSP and senior Scottish Government officials, with work progressing immediately on a ‘step-back’ review of options to confirm the best value for money option – all of our work and rigorous evidence to date has affirmed the Heat Network as that option, but we very much recognise the value of a rapid, collaborative review as a ‘public good’ for us, for funders and for other communities.
This appraisal is being taken forward at pace – we’ve pushed hard on a lot of the content of the Specification – responding to the intention to start work this winter. We’ve been working closely with senior Scottish Government officials who are assigned to work on this directly.
For the project team and Iona Energy Board, we would obviously love to be in a more straightforward situation – it’s of course disappointing and somewhat exhausting to be taking a step back rather than pressing forward with installation of the existing plans with all funding in place. We don’t expect the rapid appraisal to be easy, given the time pressure and how difficult it is – as HIE has just demonstrated – to get funders and policy makers to understand our context and its challenges. It’s also quite draining when funders come up with ideas that have already been tackled very seriously.
However, we recognise that large complex projects such as this rarely progress straightforwardly and the high level profile and commitment to deliver is remarkable as well as much appreciated.
What this means for customers: as above, the profile and commitment to delivering a heat scheme is amazing: all parties – including the Scottish Energy Minister himself – want to ensure a solution is delivered as soon as possible, is sustainable, technologically appropriate and affordable. Recent shifts in Government policy have been significantly towards the interests of consumers, so your interests will be an even greater concern of Scottish Government. While it’s very hard for the project and for incoming contractors and customers to manage the timing uncertainty, there is understanding of timing pressure to deliver a project this autumn, and we urge everyone to hold fast and see what comes from this serious Scottish Government follow up.
So a lot that’s positive but some challenges:
Not so far getting a sense of the major cost challenges of this context being taken on board – constant reference to being ‘commercially viable’, and we have to insist that’s balanced with “whilst taking full account of evidence of particularly high costs in this context”;
There is an important equity issue here – it is very difficult to get policy makers and funders to recognise how expensive it is to do anything on an island off an island with huge added archaeological and other sensitivities. If we could have delivered the Heat Network within a ‘Renewable Heat Incentive’ model on the mainland or a less challenging island location, and it needs grant funding to deliver it here – then that’s a political issue. e.g., if it costs £13K per head to educate a child at Iona Primary against £8K on average – it’s a political issue if the school is told to spend £8K only.
Also fundamental issues about long term sustainable solutions versus short term one-off measures; and sustainable business model vs not sustainable business model; and differences between being part of a collective, community benefiting project vs individual standalone measures.
Jenny McLellan asked if Minister for Energy is UK or Scottish, SR clarified this is Scottish Government we are dealing with, and importantly the Minister for Energy is also the Islands Minister, so with the Islands Act there should be strong incentive to understand the unique drivers and challenges of each island and not treat them as a single ‘remote’ group. Mark Jardine pointed out that if the heat network can be achieved here, it can be achieved anywhere. SR added that whoever undertakes the step back appraisal will need to speak with locals and encouraged people to be honest with them about the experiences they have had with e.g. efficiency measures or what drives them to participate in a project like the heat network.
Mull and Iona Ferry Committee and Sound of Iona Piers
Finlay MacDonald –
Lot of issues with the ferry network because of the Clansman. CalMac very apologetic, numerous other islands have been inconvenienced as well in order to make this work as best possible for everyone. Iain Erskine thanks everyone for their patience. Email Finlay if there have been any major inconveniences.
FM now one of the vice chairman with the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee. New ticketing system coming soon. Current system does not take vehicle sizes/lengths into account which can cause problems in terms of whether or not ferries are actually full. New system will take measurements into account. Should also mean easier print at home tickets and hopefully e-tickets on phones. FM also hopeful Iona requests will become part of online system.
There’s been an issue with short shipping (not being able to do extra trips during already operating hours according to the regulations that do not fit Iona context) but this has now hopefully been resolved.
Craignure Pier STAG appraisal now nearly finished. Meeting tomorrow when A+BC will tell community and CalMac what they are planning to do with the appraisal. FM noticed that MIFC has been left off the Craignure Pier Group terms of reference, assumes this is oversight, but is keen that this is remedied.
Vessel redeployment plan has us receiving the Hebrides when new ferries come into play, but Hebrides does not fit into Craignure pier. This is a known issue.
FM thanked everyone for responses to the ferry survey, Iona was proportionally the highest responder. Most people on all islands refused the suggested time table. Transport Scotland will be asking for more money next year to either spend on interim works on the Craignure Pier or on crew to offer an earlier/later run out of Oban to enable a more commutable service. We have no influence on which of these but Transport Scotland has been working very well with community so it is positive.
Ferry plan coming up for review and we will have input into that. Talk of Coll and Tiree link up with pick up/drop off. Last week has proved this is possible without too much delay. A lot of people thinking that current ferries in fleet are not suitable for the job and there is a push for smaller catamarans that are quicker but still take ~400 people. They are fuel efficient and require less staff, cheaper to build. Electric ferries still being looked at, which could work with local energy generation that would otherwise be hampered by grid export restraints. Could work for Iona – there’s a challenge to export electricity generated locally, partly addressed by the ferry using it.
No update available on Harbours.
SR to follow up with email in support of MIFC being part of Craignure Pier Group.
Iona Broadband Committee
Gordon MacCormick –
Scotland R-100: Reaching 100%: the procurement process is still ongoing. The three bidders, Openreach, Gigaclear, and Axione remain in the process and are currently in discussions with the R100 team in order to maximise the coverage that can be achieved under their three different bids.
It’s obviously a very complicated process and the timetable has slipped further. The target for announcing the winning bidders is now September, although the official word is ‘by the end of 2019’.
21st Century Network: BT now have around fifty small exchanges to upgrade to their 21st Century Network in Scotland. The number has halved since their previous update. Their engineers continue working to find technical solutions to enable these upgrades, but at present Fionnphort and Iona exchanges are not on the list to receive an upgrade either this year or next.
4G — Telefonica, O2, Vodafone: Telefonica O2 previously said that they have plans to upgrade four of their sites on Mull to 4G. One of which is Fionnphort. The other three sites are Salen, Gribun, and Kilfinichen. They now have permission for a microwave link from the Salen site back to BT’s fibre backhaul, and hope to have a 4G service from that site within the next two months.
They also intend to connect Gribun, Kilfinichen, and Fionnphort, back to Salen with microwave links daisy chain style.
Telefonica and Vodafone share most of their sites and have a joint company called Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Ltd. (CTIL) which is responsible for acquiring and managing their sites.
Although Gribun and Kilfinichen are existing sites, the landowner’s permission is still required for the upgrades. CTIL has been unable to secure that permission and have asked for our assistance.
CTIL do have rights under the Electronic Communications Code 2017 that would allow them to carry out the upgrades without the landlord’s permission. However, that involves going through the courts which will incur further delay and extra costs.
4G — On Iona:
As stated previously a 4G service is available on Iona from EE’s mast at Ulva Ferry. However, to be guaranteed a connection two things are required:
- A mobile phone enabled for 4G Calling.
- A BT Mobile contract SIM card.
Most new mobile phones, and some older iPhones, are 4G calling capable. The phone does not need to be on a contract, just the SIM card.
We know that some people have been able to connect using an EE contract SIM card, but we also know of others who have been unable to do so. We are awaiting clarification from EE as to why this is the case. So, to be guaranteed a connection at present you require a BT Mobile contract SIM.
If you want to use the 4G service on a mobile router as your broadband connection or backup connection, then the router should be unlocked and use a BT mobile contract SIM.
Further explanation: at present there is no commercial 4G service from the Fionnphort/Tormor mast on Mull.
The 4G signal that is covering the central part of Iona, where most of us live, is coming from EE’s mast at Ulva Ferry and for that reason is not overly strong. However, it is perfectly usable and gives data download speeds in excess of 7MBPS on a mobile phone, or router, and similar upload speeds.
The mast at Ulva Ferry only transmits the 4G service, i.e. there is no 3G or 2G.
The 4G service was built as a data network, not for voice calls. So mobile phones normally use the 4G network for data only and revert to the 3G, or 2G, network for voice calls.
Newer mobile phones have software (4G Calling) that allows them to make voice calls over the 4G data network, similar to VOIP that enables voice calls over the internet. At present access to the 4G network for voice calls is restricted to contract SIM subscribers only. No access for PAYG SIMs.
4G Calling is EE’s name for VoLTE. VoLTE means Voice over Long Term Evolution. Long Term Evolution (LTE) is the technology used on the 4G network.
The BT Mobile service is a virtual mobile network that is carried on the EE network.
Finlay MacDonald asked where the Kilfinichen mast is and said there is a list of 4G calling enabled phones on the EE website. GM said mast is between Tiroran and Tavool at Scobull. SR asked if the landowner in question is an individual or an organisation, GM said it’s a bit of both.
National Trust for Scotland
Emily Wilkins –
Two Thistle Camps coming up last week of June and last week of August, if there any jobs that need doing contact Emily. Alan Rankin has resigned so Emily has asked for patience as his position is filled. Peter Upton is new member of staff on Staffa. Summer volunteer, also called Emily, started today.
Community Trust side of things, new path being built from Fionnphort to Kintra road end is under construction. This is start of Iona to St Andrews and Iona to Northern Ireland paths. There will be an opening event during Gala Fortnight.
Finlay MacDonald asked if path will be tarmacked, answer was yes.
Rob MacManaway asked for update on repairs in Fingal’s Cave. EW confirmed it is happening, there has been a number of setbacks but it is progressing.
Joyce Watson thanked the NTS for their work on the path to the Hermit’s Cell.
Heinz Toller –
Abbey works are continuing but are not as fast as hoped. Earliest possible hand back will now be end of January. Opening probably be this time next year. Delay caused by discovery that beams that were holding the floors were rotten at walls due to damp.
Mac feasibility study is ongoing and island community has been thanked for their input into this. Mac will be available for use when Village Hall comes down, as long as it’s still safe. It will not be available at meal times, as it is used by resident community. Bookings are through Anja Jardine. No alcohol consumption, no smoking, and must have your own liability insurance.
There will be a ceilidh for St Columba’s Day this Friday from 19.30 to 20.45 in the cloisters with a local scratch band. Posters forthcoming.
Addendum – post-meeting it was clarified that ‘Hall’ bookings would still be through Rebecca Knight, with Anja Jardine acting as a link person, and that the insurance situation was still being resolved between Iona Village Hall Community Trust and the Iona Community.
Shiona Ruhemann –
Huge amount of work and effort that should have been much more productively spent, not protecting ourselves against reckless action by our Council.
We’re expecting the Area Committee on 12 June to consider the proposed Traffic Regulation Order to impose steep year round parking charges – still not confirmed;
We’ve made a request for a joint Deputation as ICC, MCC and MICT (SR, Billy McClymont, Moray Finch) to address the Councillors re Craignure and Fionnphort car parks/ lifeline services – only 10 mins allocated; Tobermory Harbours Association has requested a separate Deputation as the issues there are so different;
A further press release is going out today – many thanks to Malcolm Robertson, who is Iona-connected for all his support on media and other aspects. And many thanks again to Neil Bruce for so much work and support on this issue.
Full update went out on Mail Chimp over the weekend, including some of the huge volume of correspondence and further updates:
As you’ll know, ICC, MCC, MICT, SWMID and MIFC jointly issued a Petition through Scottish Parliament to establish a principle that parking should be free at island lifeline ferry ports [http://www.parliament.scot/GettingInvolved/Petitions/freeparkingatlifelineferryports]: our Petition has had by far the biggest and most rapid response of current Petitions and we understand it’s had the second biggest sign up ever on the Parliamentary website;
We’ve had to correct the Council’s Objections Summary as it was such a blatant misrepresentation of the objections (email and document attached below), and submit that to the Area Committee Councillors who had asked to receive it and have confirmed they will include this in their consideration of the TRO – the corrected summary is shared by MICT on Twitter today;
ICC and business reps along with the other community organisations met with 5 of the 8 Area Committee Councillors on 24 April - we gave a very clear account of what’s so badly wrong with the TRO and the Council’s handling of it; unfortunately it’s was a rather one-way conversation - the Councillors were not able to say anything of any substance, as they’d received an email the evening before advising that they’re in a quasi-judicial process and if they gave any view they would be excluded from the decision making. However, the meeting clearly helped with critically important information being available to Councillors;
As previously updated, in March ICC raised a formal Stage 2 Complaint against the Council’s handling of the TRO. In response, the Council CEO commissioned an Audit. We asked to see the Terms of Reference (ToRs) and immediately rejected them as not addressing our complaint that the TRO process is flawed. The Audit - unsurprisingly, having seen the ToRs - gave the Council a clean bill of health! (collective follow up email from 6 community organisations shared on Mail Chimp);
ICC has notified the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that we believe the Council is abusing its monopoly position by charging for parking at the ferry ports, and that it’s carrying out an ‘economic activity’ that should be subject to competition law;
We’ve done some media including articles in Daily Mail, Herald, Times and Oban Times, and appearances on BBC Alba. We haven’t enjoyed going out to the press (or, in fact, any of this!) but have been strongly advised that media is critical for any impact on a thoroughly stonewalling Council;
Also have options of Scottish Public Service Ombudsman, and could consider Judicial Review;
One point to note is that there may be a ‘fudge’ proposal of reduced charges - e.g., £90 per year permit for residents, and/or charges for visitors only (£9 or lower per day). Our view is that this is not acceptable - it’s still proceeding without any valid rationale, evidence, impact assessment or understanding of the car parks and communities who use them, and chokes up islanders and visitors in red tape with barely any revenue to justify the risks and damage (given the cost of administering the charges including warden, vehicle etc.). We think on principle parking charges at island ferry ports should be free (see reasoning in background info on the Petition link), and the charges at Tobermory should also be rejected - instead of being part of a comprehensive traffic management plan, these charges apply to one car park which makes the overall situation worse and (in the view THA - see their objections in the amended Summary shared on Mail Chimp) "unsafe”;
We shared an email (March 2019) from the Traffic and Development Manager on Mail Chimp rejecting our objection that Iona Community Council had not been included as Statutory Consultee – the email demonstrated startling lack of understanding of these islands, the communities on them and the car parks especially by telling us we didn’t need to be consulted because the car parks are “in Mull”. Some people have expressed surprise at the tone and clear message of that email that the Council is not listening to the communities. It’s very illustrative of the experience.
Jenny McLellan asked what is recourse if A+BC decides to proceed. SR said considering this, includes e.g., potentially Ombudsperson, but they can’t overturn a decision so might not have any teeth, or judicial review. Petition in front of the Scottish Government may have impact, but it would come in after the charge is implemented. Neil Bruce added the Ombudsperson can recommend a change, so it’s still worth pursuing. Finlay MacDonald asked if the petition will debated in Parliament if it hits a certain number. SR said no, but it will already go in front of the committee which is fairly serious. FM asked if we will be able to see how A+BC on this issue. NB said it should be public. Robin MacCormick said there are some people who weren’t aware of the petition and asked if it would be worth wider publicity. SR confirmed the publicity round going out now is about the petition and should include a link. RM asked if businesses should put the link out, Rick Johnston confirms they have. NB said this is a postcode lottery, and if A+BC was an island based council this would probably not be an issue.
Mhairi Killin –
Plea for support to the wider community to help with vigilance about cars that are still accessing the island under misused or illegitimate permits. Council is working to enforce RTO and seem to now have a clear understanding of what and how it should be applied but they are limited in the amount of information they are allowed to ask for and have limited recourse against applications made on false basis. None of us want to be in a role of reporting etc, but we do need to be aware of infractions. If you see something that is wrong, please contact either ICC or vehicle permit team or, ideally, Louisa Hyde’s team at Council.
Shiona Ruhemann –
Council needs to be aware that getting it wrong is just as much hassle as properly researched and applied permits, so it is worth contacting them.
Joss Brace had an issue with a plumber over the winter not being able to get a permit at short notice (emergency work and bad weather) as there was no one in the office. Mhairi Killin said let us know about these kind of cases, although there are some things (like bad weather) that can’t really be managed.
Shiona Ruhemann –
GP/Medical practice recruitment:
3 organisations have applied to run the Mull/Iona medical practice.
They’ve to present business plans at end June to an interview panel, which will include 2 community members – who we understand have been urged to interrogate especially plans for emergency and Out of Hours Care for the Ross/ Iona.
The applicants will also meet the community nursing team.
There was a recent meeting with the Scottish Ambulance Service following concerns raised about level of cover on the Ross, particularly increased response times due to staff being stationed in Tobermory instead of Salen. Summary:
- SAS will always have staff in the Salen/Craignure area to respond to Ross/Iona – sometimes relief staff were stationed in Tob due to accommodation shortages.
- SAS have changed protocols so that GPs, Fire/Rescue and Community First Responders will be dispatched to most immediately life threatening situations
- SAS are looking to recruit new staff from Mull
Jane Martin –
Last meeting there was discussion about paper bin at pier. A couple years ago we had asked for it to be removed, with a second waste bin provided in it’s place. Second bin never appeared but now that we’ve asked for the paper bin back the second waste bin has appeared. Person who made original request is happy with this.
Angus Johnston said recycling tomorrow is cancelled. JM recommended a Council email list (sign up on homepage) which sends out short but useful updates, such as this.
National Islands Plan Consultation
Shiona Ruhemann –
There’s an online consultation on the National Islands Plan connected to the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, with deadline of 6 July.
We’ll submit a response thinking as representatively as we can. It asks questions like:
How would you rank relevant areas mentioned in the Islands Act – really difficult as they’re all inter-dependent, e.g., depopulation, economic development, digital connectivity…
What are the specific challenges about living on your island
What should be key priorities for Scottish Govt in relation to the Islands Act – not treating all islands as one undifferentiated remote group, changing the balance of power, dealing with us differently
Let us know if you want anything particularly included in this.
Also planning to feed back helpfully and constructively to Scottish Govt on their handling of a daytime meeting here on 30 April, which had no consultation on timing etc. Hopefully Islands Act is about more island-centred approaches.
Dot Stewart pointed out individuals can respond as well on Government website.
Argyll and Bute Council Island Planning
Shiona Ruhemann –
Parking charges have really highlighted how little the Council understands the different places it’s supposed to serve, and the need to be more island focused.
Community Planning Partnership – consulting on next Action Plan, as part of which Community Development Team wants to engage with Communities and Community Councils; if we’d like to meet with them here we’ve to request meeting by 7 June.
Also there’s an online survey if anyone wants to participate/express views.
Jane Martin –
Good news story, road has been partially resurfaced. Though some weeds have already been spotted growing through.
Fiona Menzies grateful that pothole at end of Village Street was finally filled, but was not happy with how they dealt with the tobies and fire hydrant. Robert McLellan said there was little to no road preparation prior to the work. Finlay MacDonald said the rain has shown up where poor work was done. Jenny McLellan asked why 2.5 kilometre of a 2.5 mile road were done and not the whole of it.
Jane Martin to follow up with contact in Roads department.
Issue for discussion:
Invasive species around the Heritage Centre
Joyce Watson –
Three cornered garlic at Heritage Centre and Parish Church is taking over. Botanist has contacted Jenny Earl with concern as it’s become an issue across the UK and he saw it on visit. It’s invasive and competes with native species. Best thing to do is dig it and its bulbs up and burn it. JW is happy to head up a work party to try to dig it up at right time of year. But in the meantime please do collect the bulbs from the ground if you see it but please do not compost it. If anyone is interested in work party please contact Joyce.
Emily Wilkins offered the help of Thistle Camp.
VE Day anniversary
8th of May next year. A+BC is raising awareness, will list events if you wish to hold one.
Confederation of Inner Hebrides
Tiree Community Council leading, exploring what and how this may work.
Ross of Mull Path
Argyll and Bute Council Keep in the Loop service
Council service to promote culture, heritage and arts in Argyll and the Isles. Will add events to their monthly mailer if contacted.
Concrete and non-concrete: exploring the contemporary value and authenticity of historic replicas through an ethnographic study of the St. John's Cross replica
Sally Foster and Sian Jones’ work has been published following the research done here last year, copies in Library and Heritage Centre if anyone wants to read.
Finlay MacDonald asked for ideas for Gala Fortnight, contact him or Jack Degnan. There won’t be a ceilidh this year as no Hall.