Community Council Minutes

Iona Community Council


Minutes of the public meeting held in Iona Library on Monday 3 September 2018 at 8.00pm

Present: Jane Martin, Shiona Ruhemann (convening), Toben Lewis (minutes), Rob MacManaway, Mark Jardine, John MacInnes, 14 members of the public

Apologies: Emily Wilkins, Phil Ruhemann (who also apologises for taking the key with him)

Minutes of the previous meeting: signed off without further amendments


Reports and updates

Iona Renewables 

Jane Martin: Conductivity test in Columba field went very well. Updates have been sent out to all houses and business in the District Heat Network. Just awaiting the revised budget from preferred contractor. AGM is next week, also in library. IR has received funding from the Strengthening Communities Program for one full time post equivalent. This post is being split between Shiona Ruhemann and Toben Lewis, and on Board training. 

Iona Abbey Library

Toben Lewis: The Iona Abbey Library Project is nearing it’s completion, which will be at end of October. All books are now back on island, and are now being catalogued, classified, and re-shelved. There will be an open evening on 27 September, with tours of the library being run every half hour on the half hour, from 5.00 to 7.00pm. from the Abbey main gate. All are welcome.

Iona Village Hall

Shiona Ruhemann read the following from Joanne MacInnes: We have an update going out on Mailchimp in the next week or so which will update everyone on fundraising, planning, project timeline etc. Subject to funding, the hall will close in early 2019. In upcoming events there’s a musical tomorrow and live music on Friday – check noticeboard for posters. 

Ferry Committee 

Jane Martin read the following sent in by Finlay Macdonald:

Elizabeth Ferguson from Craignure has taken over as Chair of the MIFC and has promises a more structured approach going forward. The first meeting under her stewardship is 12th of September  but unfortunately nobody from CalMac can attend due to other commitments. I will email ICC after that meeting. 

I was asked to investigate what happened during the last period when we had a replacement vessel when the ferry  was unable to sail for an emergency call out. CalMac said it was not to do with lights but crew induction on the new vessel. 

If anybody has any issues please get in touch. 


Mark Jardine questioned the reasoning of ‘crew induction on the new vessel’ as it was a vessel that has been used previously; it was agreed to ask for further information.


Mark Jardine: Test bores in Sound to confirm geological structure are complete now and the rig is away. Next stage is to measure tidal and wave action. These are all important figures to have in order for the design to be properly suited to the area. A tidal buoy will be set up over the next few weeks. No timeline for this has been indicated but MJ assumes at least over part of the winter. Bern Looby and A+BC will be meeting in November or December to discuss next steps. Local input will be taken into account at this meeting. 


Shiona Ruhemman asked when feasibility study is due. MJ did not know, and said any previous date set would be incorrect anyway due to various setbacks. 

Jenny McLellan asked why the rig was set up for a shorter period of time than originally announced. MJ said this was good news, that it likely means they were able to complete the drilling with some ease and also had a good stretch of weather.

John Barr confirmed speaking casually to the contractors, said they had a very good crack at the weather and did not need the bad weather contingency that had been built into the plan.

Vehicle Permits

Mhairi Killin: No negative feedback about number of cars or complaints about usage, a notable decrease in the number of cars on the road. Village has been a lot less congested. Social care exemption process seems to be working, it will be reviewed after being in effect for 12 months. Mhairi will be requesting figures for 1 April to 30 September to see numbers of permits. This will not be a direct comparison with previous years, but will give some idea of trending. Important that Vehicle Permit Team feedback with positive reinforcement to A+BC and thank them for their assistance with it. Improvements have been made to the permit request page on A+BC website, with more information on other options and explanation of the Road Traffic Order.


Jenny McLellan: would like to see vehicle permits for locals that don’t need to be renewed every year. MK said this has been requested previously, but A+BC are adamant this will not happen.

Health Provision

Shiona Ruhemann: Last month we gave a despairing update – following 2 years of Health Board demanding our time without listening to community input or making any progress on Mull and Iona healthcare model. Almost immediately after ICC meeting heard from HSCP that they’d now listened to what ICC said at the meeting on Iona, which was echoed in Tobermory – so now being told (as of update last week):

  • Advert ready to go imminently (awaiting final approval) with efforts on financial package that will be sufficiently attractive
  • Each practice to have anchor Dr, resident, considerable autonomy over practice -> stability and public confidence
  • Clinical lead being recruited to set up governance structure, IT etc, not to be in hierarchy – advertise for GPs as equals
  • Some positive signs out in the market – eg Caithness – was looking for 4 GPs and got them


Jane Martin read out the following update from Emily Wilkins:

[Request for information on the Duchess’ cross, if this is NTS responsibility or if there is maintenance set up somewhere else.] We noticed that the fuchsia bushes are starting to push the wall apart and it will need bigger maintenance at some point soon. I'm trying to establish whether this is NTS' responsibility. If anyone can shed any light on the history of how this area has been maintained or has any opinions on what should happen to it that would be useful. For example should we remove the fuchsias completely in the process of repairing the wall? They seem to have been there a long time, Mairi MacArthur remembers fuchsias there in the early 1950s so maybe they were planted after the railings were taken for the war effort?

Apart from that, repair work to the walkway at Fingal's cave is progressing steadily and the NTS footpath repair team and recent Thistle Camp have both put effort into improving paths on the top of the island this month. Thistle Camp have also cleared the grass at Columba's bay of stone patterns as requested (leaving only the large labyrinth and cross), improved stepping stones on the way to hermit's cell from the Mac and on the Columba's bay path by the loch, cleared several drains, cleaned several beaches, painted the noticeboards in the village.


Jenny McLellan offered to cut back the fuchsia. Mark Jardine questioned whether the Duke still has some responsibility for the cross, or if they still have an interest in it. Mhairi Killin agreed the family may have some responsibility there. Joss Brace thought she had read somewhere that the island had erected it. JM wondered if they need to be removed in order to properly get at wall repair. 

Iona Community

Heinz Toller: At it’s meeting on 18th August, the Council of the Iona Community unanimously agreed to accept the contractor’s tender to undertake Phase Two of our project to restore the accommodation and visitor facilities at Iona Abbey. Several factors combined to enable us to approve the tender:

The tremendous generosity of our network of Members, Associate Members, Friends and other Supporters, the highlight of which was the magnificent response to Miracle in May when we raised £312,000 from within our network in one month.

Confirmation that we would receive £880,000 from the winding up of a British Christian charity. This meant that, as of 3rd August 2018, we had raised a staggering £3,129,354, and money is continuing to come in. We knew that we have the cash available to proceed immediately.

Praise for the very high quality of work evident throughout Phase One.

A very positive appraisal of the tender and the contractor’s performance from our expert Building Development Team.

Building work will commence this November and is scheduled for completion at the end of December 2019. It will involve the complete rebuilding and insulating of our guest accommodation, major improvements to the refectory, and an efficient modern heating system. Being able to re-open for the 2020 guest season (a year earlier than anticipated) will mean both a big saving in costs and a welcome return to the full range of our important work at the Abbey after only a two-year shut down of our residential programme (worship, hospitality and the bookshop have continued).

As you know, we launched the public phase of our Capital Appeal on 2nd July 2018. An updated Appeal prospectus is now  being finalised for printing and will be available from 1st September. With cost increases, inflation, and the inclusion of all non-construction elements needed to fully equip and re-open the Abbey living areas, the Capital Appeal goal has been set at a minimum of £3,500,000.

A reception will be held towards the end of this year at which our patron, HRH the Princess Royal, will be present. A number of individuals and foundations will be approached — please let us know of any who you think would like to see the prospectus and any who you feel would appreciate an invitation to the reception (

A building survey has been undertaken on the MacLeod Centre, and it was worse than hoped. As a matter of safety the Mac is now shut indefinitely. There may be some possibility in using the Mac flat but this is still being decided.



John Barr asked if Phase 2 will be slightly better managed to Phase 1, as Phase 1 seemed to evolve throughout with changing goals and deadlines, and he felt the construction site detracted from the visitor experience. HT: deadline for Phase 2 is Dec 19 with serious penalties if the contractors go more than a couple months beyond that, so there is more confidence this time.

HT: very concerned about speed of vehicles on the island, mentioned specifically the recent accident at the Achavaich Steadings. Asked if there is actually an enforced speed limit on the island and wondered if this needs to be sign posted. Discussion ensued. Mhairi Killin agreed it was an issue certainly around the school. Mark Jardine: this has been raised numerous times in the past, but there was community reticence around signage. Agreed there is an issue with people occasionally driving faster than necessary. Dot Stewart: anecdotal, but has heard that if a 30 mph speed limit were imposed, it would require the Council to put in street lamps at set intervals. MJ: street lamps have been discussed in the past and people don’t want them. HT: thought a repeat of the speed limit signs would be needed, but not lamps. Jenny McLellan: asked if it could be written on the road instead of signed. Robin MacCormick: remembered a past meeting where people did not want to impose a speed limit with signs as it takes away a certain feeling from Iona. Suggested individuals known to speed could simply be spoken to. Shiona Ruhemann: suggested we return to a previous solution of writing letters to the local courier and building companies, but also send to residents this time. John Barr: felt island was on a double edged sword, don’t want to change the island, but perhaps writing letters could help. SR: confirmed suggestion to send a letter regarding sensible driving speeds to all off-island companies that come to Iona that can be pinpointed, and Mailchimp it to islanders as well. Agreed this makes it less personal and not pointed, but hopefully brings awareness. 


Jane Martin: Got a hold of Derek Crooks after some effort, who offered to come over on his day off. JM was able to provide a suite of photographic evidence of historically overflowing bins. DC has agreed to remove one of the glass bins on the jetty and replace it with a second rubbish one. JM will follow up on the bin at the north end after the jetty bin issue is resolved.



Jane Martin read the following update from Gordon MacCormick, from the Broadband Committee:

Iona Broadband Network Outages 

Following the initial repairs to our network, work was undertaken in the Iona exchange to try and increase the stability the network. Some circuits were also moved on to different virtual paths back through BT’s systems in order to even out the loads. While it took time for some subscribers’ broadband connections to settle down, by the end of July most had, and BT say that our exchange is again working within its expected limits. 

21st Century Network Upgrade 

The Iona and Fionnphort exchanges are due to be upgraded to BT’s 21st Century Network by the end of 2019. The upgrade involves replacing the existing equipment in the exchanges with fully digital systems and a major upgrade of the backhaul path back to BT’s main network. The Iona exchange also requires building works to be undertaken in order to house the new equipment in the necessary air conditioned environment. 

At present our broadband speeds are limited to a maximum of 8Mbps by the ADSL technology currently used in our exchanges. The upgrade will bring with it ADSL2+ technology with speeds up to 20Mbps. 

Scotland R100 – Reaching 100% 

The R100 Programme is undergoing the procurement process at present. It is a Scottish Government programme that aims to ensure that everyone in Scotland has access to Superfast Broadband by 2021. For the purposes of this project Superfast Broadband means a minimum of 30Mbps. 

4G – EE 

EE, who are owned by BT, do intend to bring a commercial 4G service to Iona, but at present, are unable to give us a timescale. They are also building the ESN network for the Emergency Services via the Home Office contract which includes Iona, but that does not mean that EE commercial coverage will come with it automatically. As part of the ESN contract the O2 mast in Fionnphort has been upgraded and now hosts EE equipment alongside O2’s own equipment. 

4G – O2 

Telefónica UK, who own O2, are planning to upgrade the Fionnphort mast to 4G but are encountering problems providing the necessary transmission upgrade. Currently, the Fionnphort site is connected by a microwave link to another site. Unfortunately, they do not currently have the necessary rights, for the work required to this other site, to enable the upgrade. They have explored the option of providing direct transmission, but their supplier is unable to provide this. 

Telefónica’s network building team is currently producing a more detailed report on the situation and will give us an update when that is completed. 


Shiona Ruhemann suggested Mailchimping this information out, as there’s a lot of importance here. Mark Jardine wondered if EE/BT own the site currently holding up the Telefonica/O2 upgrade in Fionnphort, and if so if Telofonica/O2 is being blocked by EE/BT in offering 4G to the area. Jane Martin will follow up this query with Gordon MacCormick. Dot asked if there is a plan in place to bridge the gap between the 20 MBPS at end of 2019 and 30 MBPS required by the R100 program. MJ pointed out the R100 program has until 2021 to be in place; though no one was aware of a plan on how those speeds would be achieved.


Date of next meeting: 3 December 2018