Iona Community Council Minutes

Iona Community Council

Draft minutes of the quarterly meeting held in Iona Village Hall on Tuesday 7 March 2023 at 7.30pm

Present: Shiona Ruhemann (chair), Katy Russon, Dot Stewart, Rob MacManaway, Toben Lewis (minutes), and 10 members of the public.

Guests: Emily Wilkins, Torsten Haak, Helen, Terry, and Erica from the Iona Community

Apologies: Willie Hume, Amanda Hampsey, Andrew Kain, Gordon MacCormick

Minutes of the previous meeting: signed off without amendments

Reports from organisations:

Iona Village Hall Community Trust

Jane Martin read the report—

Building Stuff

Ongoing work to find a suitable resolution for the external lights as well as a heat-pump issue. Still in extended snagging until all resolved.

Storage remains an issue which we would appreciate all regular users giving careful consideration to, and the upcoming Hall Clean will be an opportunity to review.

Funding & Support

CalMac – funded ‘Island Living Room’ complimented by Waterfall Fund-funded Community Cafe sessions have been very popular over the course of 10 sessions (to date). The National Lottery funding has since been confirmed, and will support our Development Manager role in full in 2023 and part-funded in 2024. We are still working on other areas of funding including the Good Gig Fund.

IVHCT continue to be supported by Community Enterprise ‘Accelerate’ Programme including development of wedding packages, Trustee training in Risk Management and some digital/booking system support.

As always, if you have an idea for a group or activity that you would like to run, or know someone that would – please talk to us and we can help you get established, seek funding, etc.

Civic Scotland ‘My Place Award’ nomination

Iona Village Hall has been shortlisted for a My Place Award 2023. The My Place Awards celebrate community-led projects that have transformed their locality. The Awards honour projects that have excelled in terms of design and community involvement/impact and winners benefit from the opportunity to develop a national profile and evidence impact to potential and existing funders, as well as be celebrated at an award ceremony. As part of the judging process, we are submitting a short video, and will attend a Zoom interview, which should ideally include Trustees and hall users – stay tuned!

Upcoming dates of interest?

Wednesday 8th March - Film Night ‘The Duke’

Wednesday 22nd March - Film Night ‘ Mrs Harris Goes To Paris’

Annual Village Hall Spring Clean - date TBC

Discussion –

Jane Martin added that the connectivity project is underway, four village halls will benefit, currently out to tender for equipment.

Iona Renewables

Shiona Ruhemann

It’s such a crowded field at the moment, things are moving though rarely in straight lines.

On funding: we’d aimed to submit funding applications in January that would cover the full estimated cost of the project – i.e. Scottish Govt at last had everything they required for the formal process of funding the majority of the Heat Network; but the separate final grant funder had an unanticipated huge drop in resources, so those applications have been put on pause, at least until April (Scottish Govt can’t make a funding offer without all the funding lined up).

On other progress: we’re continuing to work closely with Scottish Govt and CARES, and now also with a market leader on heat pumps and heat network installation. This company came to us because they’re very keen to support the Iona Heat Network because it is a breakthrough project for decarbonisation across the UK, and excellent demonstrator value through delivering in a particularly challenging context.

This company has looked into a desk-based cost estimate – but due to the complexity of the project/ its context/ the impacts of all the ‘stop start’ ruptures to the project, they’ve advised they can’t come up with an estimate that would be valid, that they would have confidence in, and that wouldn’t be based on layers of uncertainty and assumed risk. We’re therefore waiting to hear from Scottish Govt about potentially moving to further pre-construction on-site design work, which was always part of the plan, and which would inform real-world vs estimated costs, or whether the estimated funding has to be in fully in place first.

Discussion –

Bénédicte Scholefield asked if the current status of Scottish Government (the leadership race) is affecting the timeline of the project. SR: No, the politics are not having an affect on the commitment of the Government and officials at this point.

Mull and Iona Ferry Committee and Sound of Iona Piers

Finlay MacDonald

The Frisa only timetable was much longer than promised, should have been 30% but will be 58% in the end. It’s done very well but it is not big enough or fast enough. The post is often not on the first ferry as there’s not enough room for it so we are getting our mail quite delayed. Also problematic for the commuting school kids with no food. There have been reports of people having to stand outside in the rain because there are no seats on the busiest runs.

On the 26th the Coruisk is coming back to be a two ferry timetable again. The timetable for those two vessels is not yet settled. That will potentially be until the 24th of April. Then the Isle of Mull and Coruisk will be in place until May. This will mean Easter with reduced capacity.

Requests have been made to keep the bookable ferries in the morning but that has been declined for maintenance reasons.

Other timetable requests to enable connectivity have been made but decisions have been postponed as other things are being dealt with.

New ticketing system to come in 24 April. Should be able to book Iona ferry by the website on that system. Should also enable the ferries to be booked to their actual capacity that takes into account vehicle lengths. There may be teething difficulties.

The Samso system (that prioritises local ferry traffic) can’t start until the new system is in place. It will be tested on Mull, Coll, and Tiree. As an initial trial they will save up to 10% of every sailing up to 72 hours before the sailing. This is not being held for islanders, it will be open to anyone that was not able to get tickets. The requirements for Coll and Tiree are different so their arrangement will also be different.

There is a medical procedure in place that pays for taxi to and from the hospital if you have been unable to get your car booked on. Full details are on their website.

Community Ferry feasibility study have come out with a 55 page draft document. The report should come out in April.

CMAL held a webinar about the small vessel replacement plan. The new Loch Buie should be here late 2026 or early 2027. It will be all electric, so the Fionnphort side of breakwater will need to finished by that point. Longer than the current vessel, slightly wider, no top bridge going across.

There is a meeting between the ferry committee and the transport minister next week.

Iain Erskine is retiring. Geordie Tilley is taking over for him.

Both the Corran ferry and the Lochaline ferry are also on smaller vessels at the moment, which has been affecting larger lorries.

Discussion –

Dot Stewart asked when they’re going to go public with the timetable update and date confirmation. FM: Unknown, but I can chase. Dot: will the new ticketing system affect foot passenger bookings, ie will it be more important for them to do so? FM: It shouldn’t but you should be able to book a through ticket from here to Glasgow on your phone. But it’s not a daft idea to book your spot when we’re dealing with the smaller vessels, especially as it gets busy over Easter.



There was a community meeting in January with the Council team with presentation and Q&A. It was a bit difficult with the internet connection but went ok. There is a will be an all day drop in session at Creich Hall on 25 April. They will hopefully have the plans there for viewing and be able to answer questions. The engineer and others will be present. There should be one on Iona as well but a date has not been set. Have asked that they collect questions that were asked so that can be shared with answers.

The presentation slides and plans have been shared via the island Mailchimp.

The Iona side is going ahead before the Fionnphort side as it’s more straightforward. They hope to be going to tender January of next year, hoping to put stones in the water by spring.

Craignure Pier update is that site surveys and local discussions are still ongoing.

Discussion –

SR: the meeting was appreciated and people commented they felt some confidence in the team; though the lack of communication outside of the meeting is frustrating. Suggested we ask for a consultation on Iona as well as at Creich; agreed.

Iona Broadband Committee

JM read report from Gordon MacCormick

Scotland R-100

Delivery Schedule

The delivery schedule for the R100 fibre network, in our area, has been adjusted again, due to a combination of local delivery and planning issues, adverse weather conditions, and supply chain issues, encountered by Openreach, on the current phase of the contract.

The delivery dates are now:
Pennyghael – by the end of March 2024.
Ross of Mull and Iona – by the end of September 2024.

Subsea Cable Landfall Site – Removal of excess materials

Openreach were contacted about the excess materials, and scrapped cable, remaining on site following the conclusion of the landfall works.

They apologised, and spoke with their contractors, who arranged for its removal.

The site was confirmed cleared, by Openreach, on the 11th of January.

4G – Mobile Services

O2 & Vodafone

The two new 4G services, from O2 and Vodafone, went live from the Fionnphort and Tiroran sites, during the third week of December.

There was a considerable amount of down time during the first three weeks of service, due to backhaul and other issues, but since those were resolved, both services have settled down, with data download speeds of around 60Mbps.


EE have upgraded their backhaul from the Fionnphort site, which means that the satellite link is now only used as a backup connection.

The result is that EE’s 4G service is now much improved, with latency reduced to normal levels, of around 40ms, and data download speeds of around 30Mbps.

National Trust for Scotland

Emily Wilkins

Staffa has had problems finding a contractor. Two have pulled out but we now have Shearwater in place to do some work. Due to the timing they will not be able to do major work until autumn.

The new role that covers the same area as Emily but more strategic is being interviewed for next week. They will be offered Maol Farmhouse as first refusal if they need a house.

Maol Cottage has had the asbestos removed from roof and walls, the new roof is going on next week.

A community tourism workshop is happening in Creich Hall on 25 March, a poster will be up on the noticeboard. (Not an NTS event.)

Discussion –

FM asked what will happen with Maol Farm if the person in the new hire does not farm. EW: We have advertised for someone with an agricultural background, but if they choose not to farm there could be leases, grazing arrangements, etc. There will be farming but it just may not be the tenant. Katy Russon: What happens if the person does not require the house? EW: It will then be let out, there’s lots of people needing housing. SR: will the interview process ask them to pitch what they want to do with the land? EW: I think so, yes. We really pushed to get someone who has the right background and interest.

Iona Community

Bénédicte Scholefield

In February, we said farewell to Catriona Robertson, who was Abbey Warden for 3 years, and welcomed new Abbey Warden Caro Penney, who will be in post for 4 years.

The Iona Community will welcome its first guests of the 2023 season on 11 March. On the same day, daily services will resume in the Abbey Church: 9am and 9pm every day bar Friday (8am and no evening service) and Sunday (10.30 communion service instead of 9am worship).

The Iona Community is purchasing a new sound system for the Abbey Church. This will enable much better sound through the whole Church as well as live-streaming. It is hoped this will enhance not only the worship in the Church but also the many special events held in the Abbey every year, such as weddings and concerts.

Torsten Haak

There will be smoke coming out the Mac tomorrow, do not be alarmed. It’s part of a heat loss and airtightness survey happening.


JM reading a report from Rona Muckart Lilley

The state of the Iona Surgery:

NHS Argyll and Bute Estates are responsible for the Surgery's upkeep. I have been in contact with them several times and recently have been told that there are plans for maintenance. I am now waiting for an email from them with an update of these maintenance plans. I had hoped to hear from them in time to report to this ICC meeting but have not had a response yet. I will pass it on as soon as it arrives. I have held back on contacting Jenny Minto as it kept seeming as if I may be about to make headway, but if I don't get a sensible response soon I will pass this on to her.  It's now 7 years since this was first raised as an issue!

Report from the Islands Living Well network meeting:

Calmac is piloting the following Urgent Medical Appointment protocol but it has not been publicised so we the Network were asked to bring the info to our communities-

The Urgent Medical Appointment Protocol supports customers by ensuring they can attend urgent NHS medical appointments, even when they are unable to book a car on the required sailing.

In the event you need to travel for a medical appointment with three weeks' notice or less, or you are being discharged from hospital and returning home, and are unable to book a vehicle, please contact the Customer Engagement Centre on 0800 066 5000.

If the requested sailing is full for vehicles and there are no alternative sailings, customers will be supported to book as a foot passenger. Customers will then have to arrange their own transport from the ferry terminal to the NHS location, and then back to the ferry terminal. Customers need to pay for the taxi and keep their receipts but they will be able to claim this cost back from Caledonian MacBrayne. If they are returning from hospital after being discharged, customers will arrange their own transport from the ferry terminal to their home.

The question of why we no longer have a Patient Transport Coordinator was raised. Apparently the service was oversubscribed, i.e. too successful putting too much demand on the service so it was withdrawn.

Carol Flett reported from the Locality planning group that dental provision is being put in place for Coll and Colonsay. We raised the issue of very long waiting lists for the Mull dentist effectively meaning NHS provision is unavailable here and she will take this back to the meeting.  Carol is also looking into whether transport costs for visits to mainland dentists can be claimed for.

Near Me- the virtual appointment technology that allows appointments with NHS doctors and Consultants will be available at Iona Village hall using an upgrade to the tech installed with Scot Gov funding for virtual VH meetings during lockdown. We were not sure if this has been set up yet, please let me know. Patients can request this service, if appropriate, to avoid travelling to Glasgow or elsewhere for appointments. The service can also be used from home if the department your appointment is with is set up for it.

Versus Arthritis are holding a Pain and Well-being event with lunch on 20th April in Craignure. ROMICTS transport may be available from Fionnphort. Check the Mull Health FB page for details of this a bit closer to the time. They are also doing virtual Qi Gong sessions which began on the 24th Feb but can be joined at any point.

Mairi Fleck from North Argyll Carers Centre gave a short presentation about the work they do to support carers and Kim Davies, our local Carer Support person introduced herself. She can offer a listening ear on the phone or in person; support with practical needs; online meet ups with other carers, and carer events. Carers can contact the Centre via their website or by phone for Kim’s contact details.

There were presentations by Mandy Sheridan – the Health and Social Care Improvement Officer, on the upcoming Children's Rights Plan from the Council – produced in response to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child coming into law this year, see the council website for details. And the Safer Together model, on how children are supported in cases of domestic violence, details of which can also be found on the website.

If anyone would like any issues raised about health and well-being issues email Rona.


Mull Campus

SR and KR

I think everyone knows the background to Argyll & Bute Council submitting a proposal to Scottish Govt’s Learning Estate Investment Programme (LEIP) for a new school campus on Mull, and Iona’s efforts to get the Council team to engage with us.

A decision was expected from Scottish Govt by 31 Dec but has not yet been received as far as we’ve been told.

The Council team held a meeting in early Dec at Craignure – as briefed last time, we put a lot of effort with SWMID and NWMCWC into making this a productive meeting (e.g. that they provide an agenda, participants’ list, background papers etc). Katy participated in the meeting for Iona. Essentially we’re in a period of waiting. There was an assurance at that meeting that pupils will have the option of attending Oban High School regardless of where the high school is built; we’ve not yet had confirmation that this will be on the same funded terms as currently (otherwise it’s not actually an option) and will follow up for this confirmation.

Royal Mail operations


A complaint has now been made with Royal Mail addressing the issues raised last meeting. Dean is on holiday now and it was noted that there was no cover yesterday. It is worth making a complain on the Royal Mail website especially if you are a Priority Customer.

Discussion –

Bénédicte Scholefield noted the relief postie today delivered a large amount of mail to the Welcome Centre today that had nothing to do with anyone there. She brought it for redistribution.

Iona Housing Survey

Dot Stewart

Helen Macdonald has undertaken this survey for MICT. There is definitely housing need. One of the suggestions made was to create a steering group with local stakeholders, business owners, etc to discuss how to take it forward.

Discussion –

KR, Rob MacManaway happy to be part of steering committee. Potentially Dot Stewart.


Heritage Centre


Trustees will be calling a public meeting to discuss the future of the heritage centre, please keep eyes out for that.



St Oran’s Chapel is a lovely spot and is used on an informal basis. Last year we had several occasions where evening use has left the chapel with litter and with damage from candle wax. We’ve seen this starting again so good to ask for respectful use. Please ask HES staff for guidance including fire safety. The chapel is almost 1000 years old and deserves to be used with courtesy, as most people do.

Scottish Islands Passport


App to encourage visit to islands. Rubbing plate, perhaps outside the shelter or on the noticeboards.

Bute Community Council


Bute Community Council has written to all CCs on an issue that is very resonant with the discussion last CC about the urgent need for an independent inquiry: in this case, one of Bute’s Councillors raising serious concerns about the way decisions are made on cuts, without consultation with communities, and without the most basic evidence to inform decisions (e.g. costing of risks).

As one example 20 school crossings are being removed, using an anecdote that fewer children are walking to school post COVID – when challenged there was no evidence to support this claim, nor to assess impacts of this decision.

Other examples are coming in from CCs about the lack of an evidence based case for other decisions on cuts.

We note that our ward Councillors gave an undertaking in the last meeting: We are going through the budget now and will be going to communities to ask for feedback. Yet we have heard nothing from our elected representatives about cuts.

These concerns raised by Bute CC and others chime with the scope and rationale that we have pushed – through proposing an independent inquiry – for the Council to address the damage and transform the way it makes decisions and works with communities.

Unless any objections, we’ll support Bute CC’s proposal to dicuss joint follow up.   



8 July in Village Hall

Deposit Return Scheme

FM asked if there are any plans on the island. No plans appear to have been made, unknown if Spar is planning anything. There may be exemptions for small premises. The onus is currently on the retailer to accept returns and store until someone comes to pick up. There is no information yet as to who or how that may happen here. General feeling that things may be delayed.

Date of next meeting: 7 June 2023 (tbc)