Draft minutes of the quarterly meeting held online via Zoom on Thursday 9 December 2021 at 7.30pm
Present: Shiona Ruhemann (chair), Rob MacManaway, Dot Stewart (whose co-opted period has just ended), Katy Russon, Mark Jardine, Jane Martin (minutes), and 17 members of the public.
Apologies: Toben Lewis, Gordon MacCormick
Minutes of the previous meeting: signed off without amendments
Iona Community Council update
Shiona Ruhemann —
Appreciation of Dot Stewart, co-opted two years ago and that term now ended. Thank you - very principled, thoughtful and considered, very clear, team player and accessible.
Jane Martin —
Brief overview of the last three months including fencing, Breton Cultural Institute book on Iona, reuniting relatives, A&BC on public toilets, met the new marine officer, talked about the breakwater Environmental Impact Assessment, defibs, A&BC schools’ consultation and have a meeting planned on the impact of ferry disruption on education. ICC relies on a network of others in the community – thank you and please note upcoming elections in October 2022.
Shiona Ruhemann —
AGM on Wednesday. Scottish Government now very supportive of Heat Network project and echoed environmental commitment in today’s budget. Consistent support from former and current MSP. Financial model being reworked to show viable without RHI. Waiting on confirmation of enablement funding. SG looking at funding and IR is frontline case in that supporting islands and their higher costs. Big funding application under consideration. Senior SG officials planning a visit to Iona early 2022. Timing – we keep stressing winter closed season is the only option for some properties, some fixed seasonal constraints.
Bénédicte Scholefield: timescale? We keep stressing the importance of November to February period, next winter ideal but can’t say for now.
Iona Broadband Committee
No update this time but for March meeting R100 subsea cable work will have started.
National Trust for Scotland
Emily Wilkins —
Maol Cottage – the NTS building surveyor has been asked to get quotes for asbestos removal and Helen MacDonald, MICT Housing Project Officer, has suggested contacting A&BC Empty Homes Officer and Communities Housing Trust so progress being made. Staffa planning applications are live and revised plans can be seen. Shelter caretaker applications in hand and should be open from New Year. Ranger crowd funder has exceeded targets and received lots of positive messages. Nature Scot has part funded ranger posts due to staycation visitors so increased funding to Mull rangers for next two years. A&BC employed staycation wardens and some of that funding has gone to Mull rangers.
Bénédicte Scholefield: Asked who is moving Mail Cottage forward? Emily clarified Will Boyd Wallis is Operations Manager and is taking forward the plans.
Mull and Iona Ferry Committee
Finlay MacDonald —
Starting with Craignure / Oban route. MIFC has asked if the Isle of Arran is sustainable on the route. Older and not as much commercial vehicle capacity and difficult for larger vehicles like Co-op. New vehicle bought Utne – renaming competition – will help winter timetable although not for Iona residents. Smaller capacity so is there a third vehicle available such as loch class? Potential for double crewing not materialised due to berthing issues, pier fit query as deep draught means south side of Craignure pier not suitable. Communities Board revamped but no representative from Mull or Iona Ferry Committee. Regular meetings organised by Jenni Minto with MIFC and CalMac Senior Management. Proposal by MIFC to Transport Minister of a community ferry company which would require breaking up the network. Not just a wish from Mull and Iona but other islands too. Potential but interesting to gather views. Craignure pier has new passenger access tender in early 2022 as limitations are impacting timetable. This is a temporary fix but long term plan is progressing. Capacity issues are key as CalMac offer first come first served but that benefits those who can book in advance for planned holidays but is less useful for islanders who have more short term travel. Question from Neil Bruce on Community Ferry Company – was contract tied up with European rules which no longer apply? Finlay: yes, no longer need to tender. Could offer to CalMac in long term or break up network and offer by route. SG would still be able to keep a service level agreement. Currently high subsidies yet old fleet. Example of Norway who has a lot of ferry routes but also lots of companies who operate them and make money. Mark joined and talked over the email to Don McKillop and his reply. Previously shared email was replied but very disappointing: Loch Buie return, Loch Tarbert had to leave due to expiry of certification, local crew were requested to attend at boat yard, relief crew operated within parameters of Bull Hole operating plan and decisions were due to weather and await A&BC delivering breakwaters for disruption to reduce. Some items not addressed and ICC needs to follow up especially ICC being expected to hasten A&BC breakwater project – that is not the answer for a lifeline service. General input and further discussion welcome at this meeting. No discussion of mitigations such as rib to improve dinghy operation. Finlay has replied personally at lack of detail in response and expectation that ICC will drive the breakwater project and we wait for that for service improvements. Has asked for sailing statistics to see if more than 11 sailings have been impacted (what was previously suggested was acceptable). Local skipper confirmed that it is important for them to be with the boat at the yard to oversee work. Response should note that capable and experienced skippers are available in the relief pool. No discussion of mitigations has been forthcoming. Mark Jardine highlighted concern of pressure on our local crew and the superb service they offer compared to relief crew.
Robin McCormick: if parameters that relief crew are correct then these need revisited. Decision based on wind speed but not direction? CalMac previously gave us assurances which seem to have disappeared. Had a ferry service for many years –breakwater is not the key factor to give us a reliable service. Situation is unacceptable. Mark Jardine: CalMac have not shared dinghy operating procedures but it does seem wind direction is included. Robin – alternative to dinghy and use a sea legs rib from Fionnphort although recognise the cost. MJ: this option has been discounted by CalMac but they declined to provide explanation. FOI request for that and dinghy ops? Finlay – other options too but CalMac say independently assessed and risk is too high and that is where breakwater project came from. This is the ultimate solution but frustrating that CalMac justifying lack of service on project delays. ICC will respond and highlight what has not been answered. Service has not become more dangerous but H&S has tightened. Some impact of climate change. Further comments to Mark for letter. Emily shared Bull Hole dinghy regulations with Mark and Finlay.
Sound of Iona Harbours Committee
Mark Jardine —
Noted meeting with Scott Reid Marine Operations Manager for A&BC when on island to inspect jetty works. Discussed ICC concerns and got an update from SR, who had studied ICC comments on EIA scoping report and was supportive regarding all concerns. Seagrass is seen as significant by nature Scotland for EIA as a carbon store. Now agreed that mitigations (planting more) will mean project is not impacted hugely as first feared. Both planning applications have been withdrawn due to changes – reduction in height and removal of piles from plan for Iona side (both positive) and Fionnphort walkway arrangement has changed to be safer. New plans will be submitted when EIA is completed but no timescale yet. Recognition of wider opportunities and need for community meeting from council officials.
Bénédicte Scholefield —
Coming to end of opening years, carols at pier 16th December, Christmas guests arranging 21st December, worked with HES as COVID restrictions eased to allow more access than in 2020, 430 guests in 2021 with positive feedback despite COVID and snagging. Over 60 people have had a free holiday in Shuna or Abbey via the Unlocked programme alongside partners. Open mid March 2022 with staff arriving mid February. Future of Macleod Centre will be progressed next year. Happy Christmas to everyone!
Rona Muckart Lilley —
COVID 19 Guidance and testing update: if you have symptoms, (or have been asked to by the Health Protection Team) you should take a PCR test as soon as possible and in time to be posted on the day. These are available via Bunessan surgery - there should be some in the storage box by the toilets, or via the Fire Brigade - call 01463 706 015 to book and collect your test between 7.45 and 8.15am.
The Scottish Government now advise taking a lateral flow test before each time you mix with others. New nasal only swab tests are now available from www.gov.uk/order-coronavirus-rapid-lateral-flow-tests
For clear, accessible information on the latest updates about vaccine and booster clinics; national COVID guidance; local (Mull, Iona, Coll & Tiree), regional and national infection numbers and local health incentives the Mull Health Facebook page is highly recommended. This is run on behalf of a steering group of representatives of the Islands Community Councils, MICT, Tobermory Harbour Association, working closely with local GP practices and following the advice and guidance of the Scottish and UK governments.
A booster clinic was held on Iona yesterday for those vaccinated before 15th September. If you are still due a booster, look out for notices of future clinics on the Mull Health FB page or on community noticeboards.
We would like to thank our local surgery staff for their efforts in organising and running these clinics.
Patient Participation Group update
It is frustrating to report that the PPG have still not been able to meet with either Mairi Dunning or Eric Jespersen to discuss issues brought to us by our communities. Months of emails and several cancelled meetings leave us no further forward. We don’t currently have a group meeting scheduled as we were hoping to meet with surgery representatives first, but there will be one in the new year. In the meantime, do contact Rona if you have any general issues relating to the surgery (positive feedback also welcome). Specific complaints should be raised with Mairi Dunning directly.
The state of Iona Surgery building
The very poor state of the windows and doors of the surgery has been raised to Dr Jespersen by a local resident. He responded that they are very aware of the issue of decaying buildings in many of the local surgeries. NHS Highland owns the buildings, meetings between the Practice and the HSCP and NHS estates haven’t led to any progress on building maintenance. The PPG would like to support the Practice to move this forward. Rona intends to write to MSP Jenny Minto and MP Brendan O’Hara on the group’s behalf about this and if anyone else would like to raise the issue please do.
Dot Stewart noted that the Welcome to Iona website had been updated with the current PCR test route.
Bénédicte Scholefield asked for clarification on the online COVID guidance – Mull Health Facebook
Shiona – has positive feedback been given yet. Rona will directly as no PPG group meeting and ICC will also pass on their thanks for the booster clinic.
Toilets closed regularly over season and ladies closed for the last few weeks. Have alerted A&BC and noted that OES have been on island but not addressed the toilets.
Island requires to replace the defib which was located at the hostel but is now out of date and not supported. This is no longer a public place so the plan had been to relocate on the Machair. A new unit is around £600 and a heated cabinet and electrician is roughly another £600 so we are looking to raise funds, led by Jann Simpson. The local Christmas card delivery money will be donated to this fund. Two defibs on the island – IC shop entrance and on side of shelter plus fire service has a third but not publicly accessible.
No update received.
Hogmanay booking for the hall for a party. Let Finlay know if you want to help. Depends on COVID regulations too. Also Christmas trees available.
A&BC schools’ consultation- detailed mailchimp issued and engagement is encouraged. A&BC proposal put online in June to restructure schools across A&B, within one week of proposed decision by Community Services Committee, but with no public consultation. Councillors declined to approve the proposal without consultation. ICC has followed up consistently with Pippa Milne regarding the lack of a case (rationale, alternatives, evidence, risks etc) to support the proposal, but not yet received answers to fundamental questions. CCs and Parent Councils being asked to ‘consult’ on proposal with deadline of response 4 February 2022. What seems to be proposed: schools currently have autonomy via the head teacher who is also a practitioner. All the head teachers would be replaced by a ‘head of school’ who does not teach and with smaller schools appearing to have a shared head, under a multi-school ‘Executive Head’. The proposal is premised on separation between ‘leader’ and ‘practitioners’, but (as with the proposal in its entirety) no evidence to support. For Iona, decisions pushed elsewhere, off-island, and autonomy lost with no clarity where these would be taken or how big any cluster of schools might be. Lots of ongoing questions with a lot of gaps/ unjustified assumptions in the model, and no demonstration of other options considered including status quo. Recruitment is claimed to be the underlying problem, but with no evidence to support this, and no demonstration that a head of school would be any easier to recruit or retain. ICC will continue to pursue these questions with A&BC and will gather views from the community in January following the sharing of information in the mail chimp. Also shared Mull Community Council meeting recording where Jenny Des Fountain (former Tobermory Head teacher and inspector) gave a presentation from an experienced island practitioner perspective.
Bénédicte Scholefield: what is Stephen’s view? Shiona: head teachers aren’t allowed to express views.