Iona Community Council Minutes

Iona Community Council

Draft minutes of the quarterly meeting held in Iona Village Hall on Wednesday 7 September 2022 at 7.30pm

Present: Shiona Ruhemann (chair), Katy Russon, Mark Jardine, Jane Martin, Toben Lewis (minutes), and 14 members of the public.

Apologies: Rob MacManaway, Gordon MacCormick, Emily Wilkins

Minutes of the previous meeting: signed off without amendments

Iona Community Council update 

Jane Martin —

Biggest single amount of ICC time spent over the last three months has been dealing with the ‘Collective Leadership Model’, which the Council has now withdrawn. Also contributed to academic research, answered COVID related questions, met with the NTS, the local MSP, and many others, supported the ITERA adventure event, attempted to improve the state of the public toilets, answered questions about moving to Iona, and put people in touch with other people. Often people will get in touch via the website and we help them get in contact with those they are seeking. We have recently also become involved in the Council proposing a new Mull Campus.

There is still time to apply to join Community Council, the deadline is 4pm tomorrow.

The good news is Argyll and Bute Council (A+BC) has been successful in their funding bid for digital hub technologies, which should help connect the Hall in the future.

Mark Jardine’s last meeting on Iona Community Council

Shiona Ruhemann –

How do you thank someone who has spent over 20 years on Community Council? Borrowed words from Mark’s son Neil to describe his character as both a parent and in his long ICC career. Thanked Mark for all of his time and principled work. Everything he’s done and everything he is is really valued, and we really miss him.

Council’s proposed ‘Collective Leadership Model’

Shiona Ruhemann –

The Council has withdrawn its ‘Collective Leadership Model’ proposal. We’ve shared the ICC correspondence throughout 15 long months. As in our most recent email to Pippa Milne and Councillors after the recommendation to withdraw:

  • The current legacy of the CLM is untold waste of public and community resources (what could have been achieved with all of these resources instead?), damage to the Council’s reputation, incineration of trust, and the conditions in place for similar disasters to keep occurring.
  • The unreflective, inaccurate set of reports to the Committee demonstrate that, again, lessons are not being learnt.
  • The Council, professional groups and communities cannot afford to keep enduring these experiences.

There has to be an independent inquiry in order to move forward constructively, with re-established trust, whether that‘s recommended by the CEO or instigated by elected members. We’ve proposed an initial scope for inquiry to:

  • assess and review the Council’s existing structures, processes and practices when officers propose changes to public services, including how and when these are introduced to the relevant communities so they can be assured of their meaningful involvement prior to officers drawing conclusions about what recommendations they make to elected members; and the level of detail officers then present to elected members in seeking their approval thereafter;
  • consider the timing, substance, balance, objectivity, detail and length of reports presented to elected members;
  • make recommendations as to how they can be improved.

It is hard to understand how any Council leader could argue that, given the CLM experience, this is not a constructive and essential investment.

Mull and Iona Ferry Committee 

Finlay MacDonald

Ferry Committee has met with transport minister who has tentatively agreed that Samso model of booking (where locals and regular contractors, couriers, etc will have a priority booking card) is a good idea. Hopefully will come in for summer timetable next year on Oban/Mull route. It may initially be a logistics nightmare and not work well but over time the data will be collected and used to figure out which sailings need more spots held for locals and how best to implement. Will be trialled on Mull route, other islands are keen to participate and may benefit from the same setup. Still to be decided exactly who will be eligible and how that will be worked out.

There have been problems with no shows, where people may book on to multiple ferries when only needing one. There were plans (now abandoned) to not refund for missed ferries. CalMac now looking to implement an Advance Standby system. You could phone up to be on the waitlist for a full ferry, pay for your ticket, and if the place becomes available you will be contacted. Your money will be refunded if you do not take or get a place on that sailing. This would be in place of the current waitlist arrangement which is only for a set, strict criteria of medical appointments, funerals, etc. This will likely be irrelevant for us if the Samso model is put in place.

Winter timetable has not been published yet. Proposed timetable was passed around the meeting. CalMac is trying to arrange longer spells in dry dock of the larger vessels over the winter. They are suggesting the Mull timetable would start with both the Frisa and Arran, going to just the Frisa for two weeks at the beginning of November, and for one month at end of January into February, which has knock on effect on the Iona timetable. It would mean on some days that our last ferry to Iona would be at 5pm. It shortens the day considerably but does mean the ferry will be crossing in daylight and therefore more likely to run. Some of the train connections are quite poor. It’s not yet known how the bus timetables will fit into all of this. Have tried many times to contact the person in charge of these timetables, with no luck. Will continue trying and will continue to work away at this timetable to make it as suitable as possible. School children would have to leave even earlier on a Monday morning.

Timetable should be confirmed and bookable by this time next week.

Ferry Committee is proposing a three ferry system on the Mull run, which Transport Scotland agrees in principle though that does not guarantee what will happen in the future. Would require three vessels that will complete the crossing in the same time, which would discount the Frisa as it’s a slower vessel.

Keep an eye on the Ferry Committee website for updates.

There was a presentation on the small vessel replacement program run by CMAL, Loch Buidhe replacement has been pushed up to phase 1 (from phase 2). All small boats will be same length and depth, but width will differ by requirements of run. We don’t need a huge amount of vehicular traffic but require a high passenger capacity. This has been flagged and they are hopefully considering.

Discussion –

Mark Jardine: the Advance Standby system may be useful during the break in period of the Samso model system. Asked what last run on a Friday night will be in the adjusted winter schedule. FM: should be at 18.15. Shiona Ruhemann: why does the early morning sailing on Monday have to leave 15 minutes earlier? FM: to allow the extra time the Frisa needs for the crossing. Alison Johnston: raised the vehicular capacity (or lack of) on the Frisa and how that will cope (or not) as the sole vessel in the winter. Neil Jardine: last boat on a Sunday has been lost on this schedule. Assumes everyone will travel via Oban which is not always the case. The Sunday sailings are all bookable ones anyway, is it possible to retain that last sailing? FM: we can ask.

Sound of Iona Harbours Committee 

Finlay MacDonald

It’s gone quiet, have been trying to raise information from the Council through A+BC employees and local Councillor. The potential issue with sea grass appears now to be less of a problem. Licenses not yet applied for; no point applying for licenses until Marine Scotland agrees with the plans which requires publications of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). EIA still has not been published. Requires four licenses for Iona side alone, Fionnphort will require more.

Design for Fionnphort side may or may not include a dogleg as in the first set of plans.

Iona side will be separated from the Fionnphort side so complications with the latter do not hold up the former. Assuming licenses are all granted, should be able to go to tender next year.

Very likely that when works are being done at Fionnphort side there will be service disruption.

Scott (A+BC) will be coming for a site visit soon regarding both the breakwater and the wee pier.

Old contract for wee pier work is done, new contract in place, but not yet known when they will be coming to finish work.

Discussion –

Shiona Ruhemann: when Scott visits can he give us an extra hour to talk things through (an informal community meeting ). FM will discuss with Scott. Katy Russon: at what point does planning permission happen? FM: as soon as EIA is published that should be able to happen.

Action –

Neil Jardine will compile a list of the outstanding problems with the wee pier. Request community meeting on breakwater.

Mull Campus

Jane Martin –

A+BC are proposing to apply for funding to rebuild Tobermory High School. The Council advised of an information session being held in Tobermory. When asked when they would be coming to Iona, were told to go to Tobermory. Eventually another session was held in Bunessan, and Iona was again instructed to go to that. We have made further requests for a meeting on Iona and have also asked the local Councillors to assist with this. The Council has responded they will engage more widely if and when the funding is secured.

They are looking for support to apply for funding but it is not clear what that will look like, where the campus would be, or what the implications for Iona will be. There is very limited information online but people are encouraged to look at it and respond by 9 September.

Discussion –

Mark Jardine: it’s very difficult to know if you can support the funding application without knowing what the application will be for. Alison Johnston: historically the Ross of Mull and Iona has always been considered separate and amenities have migrated to Tobermory. Shiona Ruhemann: the burden of logistics and cost of attending the engagement session has been passed from Council to the entirety of Iona. Katy Russon: report on Council website states that location is not something to be considered yet but that there is potential for conflicting views. Participants: intended to get to Bunessan for the meeting as this is a real concern, but was impossible to manage it.

Action –

ICC to write to Council restating that the Mull Campus team needs to meet with the community on iona before submitting a report to Council for 29 September; to confirm again that the information we have been provided with so far is not sufficient for us to take a view.

Operational issues

Jane Martin –

Councillor responded after last meeting about waste uplift, but his contact on Council was on holiday at the time. Still needs followed up on.

Toilets are obviously an issue, but are a lower priority than the constant firefighting needed with issues such as the Collective Leadership Model, piers, breakwaters, etc. Volunteers for a subgroup welcome! Some maintenance work has been done on them very recently but obviously a great deal more is needed.

Reports

Hall

Mark Jardine read report from IVHCT—

Occupancy since January: 369 bookings across all rooms. 1154 hours total. Being used by both visitors and locals.

Short film on Saturday created in lieu of the first public performances in Hall last year. Will be put online as part of a fundraising campaign.

Will post online with winter plans including film nights, bonfire night, craft fair, etc.

Snagging still underway. Hope to coordinate with some further work that has been identified through Hall usage.

Electricity is roughly £27 per day with current electricity costs. Pushing budget and exploring ways to deal with this. Pausing some planned purchases. Also seeking to renegotiate loan repayments, electricity contracts. Working with an external business support program.

Iona Renewables

Shiona Ruhemann —

Progress: Scottish Government contacted us last August supportive of installing a Heat Network on Iona – conditional on a revised financial model that confirmed the project is viable long term, i.e. that minus £2.5M of subsidy in the previous financial model (the UK subsidy is now closed) the project could repay loans and operate in perpetuity via heat sales rather than subsidy. SG now has that assurance – the revised financial model has been successfully through due diligence by Ernst & Young.

Yesterday we had a very positive meeting with SG/CARES. The upshot is that CARES has been mandated by SG to take forward immediately a set of priorities that moves the project onto an active footing and towards construction, e.g. – on contract model/ procurement, robust capital budget (further cost changes since last desk-based update in May, in a very volatile economic context), high level programme etc. Various other actions also agreed. Major change – external organisations weighing in behind the project and resourcing the work to move us forward.

Iona Renewables/ Iona Energy Ltd have welcomed new Trustees/ Directors: Mhairi Killin and Nat Baldwin.

Really grateful to Louise Waters of Natural Power – previously Scene – for her work on the financial model and indepth understanding of the project.

Iona Broadband Committee 

Jane Martin read report from Gordon MacCormick —

Scotland R-100

Openreach engineers were on Iona, at the beginning of July, undertaking a survey for our new fibre network, and the subsea fibre cable was laid across the Sound, on the ninth of August.

The new fibre network will be deployed using as much of the island’s existing infrastructure as possible, e.g., using existing telegraph poles and ducts to carry the fibre cables, wherever feasible.

Although the new fibre network will make use of the existing infrastructure, it will be a completely separate network, entirely independent of the existing copper network which currently supplies our telephone and ADSL broadband services.

The new network will deliver internet and data services, directly from the Ardfenaig exchange, through the new fibre cables, to all premises on Iona, that request a connection.

Initially, the existing copper network will continue to provide voice telephone and ADSL broadband services, alongside the new fibre network. However, in time, all services supplied over the copper network, including the voice telephone service, will be migrated on to the fibre network, and the copper network will be removed.

R-100 Delivery Schedule

The engineering schedule for provision of R100 broadband connections in the North Lot, our area, has been updated.

This is primarily due to extra funding being made available, which has allowed for an increase in the number of premises able to be connected to the new network under the main R100 contract.

Unfortunately, for Iona, and the Ross of Mull, it means that our delivery date has slipped back from the first half of 2023, to the first half of 2024.

However, on the positive side, it means that premises in the Pennyghael area, from Craig Cottage, Glen More, down to Ormsaig, which were previously excluded, will now be included in the new fibre network.

Kilfinichen, Tiroran and Tavool, on the north side of the loch, currently still remain excluded from the main contract.

The Pennyghael area is scheduled for delivery in the second half of 2023.

Discussions –

Jane Martin offered to pass any questions on to Gordon. Neil Jardine: asked if current cable is considered finished, because it doesn’t look as though it will last through a winter. Finlay Macdonald: asked if it will be marked with buoys and asked if all premises on Iona are now part of the contract. Also asked if anything has changed with the Fionnphort mast that is affecting our current 4G speeds. Dot Stewart: will there be an issue making phone calls during power cuts if all of the copper network is removed.

Addendum –

Response received from Gordon MacCormick post-meeting:

Answers to questions raised at ICC meeting on 7th September 2022.

Status of R100 Subsea Fibre Cable

Q: The cable is laid but doesn’t look finished. It lies on the rocks where it is vulnerable and has many kinks in it. There are boxes of armour but there is a rumour it will need to be re-laid. It was noted that it isn’t marked, either, in the way the water pipe is marked and is liable to damage.

A: The R100 delivery team has established that the subsea cable did sustain some damage during the transfer operation between the large cable laying ship, the Normand Clipper, and the smaller Green Isle, which was used to lay the cables in the Sound of Iona and four other shallow water routes.

Whether to repair, or replace, the cable, is currently under consideration by Openreach and Global Marine.

The R100 delivery team have assured us that the issue with the cable will not impact the delivery schedule for Iona.

All required protection, and subsea cable position markers, will be in place on completion of the subsea cable landfall operation.

Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme (SBVS)

Q: For premises which can’t be connected, can they still apply for funding? Is it possible to lay your own?

A: For the sake of clarity, there are no premises on Iona that can’t be connected to the new network.

While five of the newest builds on the island are not included in the main R100 contract, as they didn’t exist when the original plans were being drawn up, there will be provision, and capacity, within the new network, for those premises to be connected.

As those premises are not included in the main R100 contract, they are instead being offered the £5,000 SBVS voucher. That voucher will remain available until those premises receive a superfast broadband connection.

However, it is strongly advised that occupiers of those premises refrain from accessing that voucher until after the R100 network is built, as Openreach may ask to claim the voucher for providing the connections for those premises.

The SBVS voucher can only be claimed once, and once claimed, the R100 commitment to that address has been fulfilled.

When the new network goes live and a fibre broadband service is ordered through your chosen ISP, Openreach will be responsible for laying the drop cable, which is the final length of cable that connects a premises to the network at the nearest connectorised terminal block (CBT).

Copper Network – Removal

Q: If the copper wire is removed will this mean there will be no facility to make phone calls in a power cut? If so, this is an issue.

A: Yes, it is an issue, but not due to the removal of the copper network, which will only happen after it’s no longer required. The issue will arise in 2025 when the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) is scheduled to be switched off throughout the UK.

The matter was referred to in the Broadband Report to ICC in September 2021.

At present, two distinct services are delivered over the BT Openreach copper network. The PSTN voice telephone service, and the ADSL broadband service.

In 2025 the PSTN will be switched off, and the voice telephone will then be delivered via the broadband service. For most of us that will mean unplugging our landline telephone from the BT socket and connecting it to our broadband router instead.

At present, corded telephones receive their power from the PST network, that is why they continue to work during a power cut. However, there is no power available through the broadband network, so provision will need to be made for battery backup power.

By 2025, when the PSTN is switched off, our fibre network should be in place. To receive a telephone service over the FTTP network, three items are required. An Optical Network Terminal (ONT) supplied by Openreach, a Router supplied by an ISP, and a Telephone.

In the event of a power cut, making a landline telephone call will only be possible if all three items have a battery backup power supply.

OFCOM are holding consultations with Openreach, and Service Providers, about who will be responsible for supplying the battery backup power required.

4G – Fionnphort Mast

Q: Has the Fionnphort 4G improved recently? Routers are now picking up Fionnphort, although 6Mbps, while Ulva Ferry is 60Mbps.

A: The Fionnphort mast is still Band 20 only, with satellite backhaul, so any perceived improvement is likely due to lower contention on the service. This is seasonal, and usually happens each year, as the number of visitors, and occupation of holiday accommodation, in the area, reduces.

Speed tests carried out recently show results broadly similar to previous performance, with D/L speeds ranging from around 2Mbps to 9Mbps, but on average towards the lower half of that range.

National Trust for Scotland 

Jane Martin read report from Emily Wilkins —

Maol Cottage – discussions ongoing with MICT about the best way to make this habitable again while preserving its heritage value. Please help to promote and fill in the housing needs survey https://forms.office.com/r/qrwb3qestp which will provide evidence for attracting grant funding.

Maol Farm – Will and Clea thank everyone for their input and comments. Will is currently writing a business case for the way forward for sign-off within NTS, more details at next ICC meeting or email wboydwallis@nts.org.uk

Footpaths – large-scale footpath work taking place with contractors on Staffa. The island was closed today (7th) for helicopter delivery of stone. There will be restricted access to some areas of Staffa for the next few weeks while works are carried out on the path towards the puffin colony to restrict erosion and make the path surface more durable. The NTS' own footpath repair team also visited Iona recently carrying out works on the route between the machair and the hermit's cell as well as at Burg and Staffa. Tackling a flooded area on the Columba's Bay path is the priority for their next visit.

NTS and RSPB jointly provided advice to HES recently on making the Abbey grounds more wildlife-friendly.

Healthcare

Rona Muckart Lilley –

COVID-19

Last weeks PHS data is from the 29th August. 1 in 40 (2.56% of population) tested positive, In the week to 28th August. ICU admissions decreased to 6 with approx 699 in hospital with Covid (15% less than previous week) and there were 57 deaths (10 fewer than previous week). A&B figures not currently available. Numbers continue to fall but there is an expectation that there will be a winter resurgence of infections.

The autumn round of vaccinations started in Scotland this week with the most vulnerable, beginning with care home residents and frontline staff to be vaccinated first.  Dates for local boosters will be released soon via the surgery and on the Mull Health FB page and some vulnerable people will be invited by the surgery to attend.

  • Adults aged 50 and over,
  • People aged 5 to 59 with health conditions that mean they are at higher risk- including pregnant women,
  • Care home staff,
  • frontline health and social care workers,
  • Unpaid carers,
  • Household contacts of people with weakened immune systems.

A new vaccine designed to combat the Omicron strain will be used for some but there is not enough yet for everyone in the vulnerable category so please accept whichever vaccine is available. The new vaccines will be more widely available in the spring. 

Living Well Islands Network

Due to a work clash I was unable to attend the recent meeting but I have copies of the presentations given and if anyone is interested I can forward these:

  •  A presentation from Gill McShea from the Scottish Health Network. Information about her work and also the free, virtual, walk leader training to provide Scottish Walking for Health Network guided walks for those with mobility issues- training is available to become a walk guide.
  • A presentation on mental well-being in Argyll and Bute
  • A presentation from Gillian McInnes of Social Security Scotland about the new Adult Disability Payment, which replaces Personal Independence Payments.
    • It’s not about tackling poverty – it’s about promoting equality
    • Not income based
    • For those with physical, mental health, sensory, cognitive or learning disabilities or long term health conditions, under pension age
    • Clients can claim themselves but we recommend getting support to claim. Call us on Freephone 0800 182 2222
    • In addition to new applications there will be over 350,000 cases transferred, across Scotland, from DWP (Dept Work and Pensions)
    • Transfer of PIP clients from DWP to Social Security Scotland
    • From 29 August 2022 we’ll transfer PIP to Adult Disability Payment for people;
      • who report a change in circumstances to the Department for Work and Pensions
      • who are due a review of their award
      • who have a terminal illness
    •  It will take until the end of summer 2024 to move all PIP awards to Adult Disability            Payment.  A transfer will take around 3 to 4 months.
    • If the client gets PIP under Special Rules for Terminal Illness it will take around 1 month.

I also have contacts and information from previous meetings, on LGBT networks, mental heath support, gambling addiction support, HIV testing and support, alcohol issues, domestic violence, and local rape crisis support.  These are all issues that come with stigma that can make it hard for folks to reach out and I wish there was something useful I could do to make the info accessible so no-one has to ask but can go direct to the local service providers signposted. I understand a notice board in the hall may not be suitable and am open to suggestions.

Discussion –

Finlay Macdonald: information could be put as an extra page on the Iona website.

Updates:

Vehicle permits

Shiona Ruhemann —

When there are issues with permits, this entails a lot of extra work for ICC. ICC encourages people to go to Louisa Hyde at Council directly if they have questions or concerns rather than go via ICC, if that’s possible. The more A+BC know about how it’s working the more they can make informed decisions on future applications.

Iona Community 

Bénédicte Scholefield —

An update was circulated via Mailchimp about the MacLeod Centre. Hopefully everyone has had a chance to read this. Now collecting feedback from that short report to take back and move forward. A lot of feasibility and options work was done a few years ago but it all went quiet during COVID and trying to get the Abbey re-opened. Attention is now being put back into the future of the Mac. Retrofitting is looking to be the way forward as the most environmentally sensible option. It’s likely to be used for affordable stays for youth and families but exactly how is still vague.

Discussion –

Finlay Macdonald: is there a potential for workers accommodation? There is very little on the island and very much needed. A lot of the seasonal workers are younger folk so it does fall under the youth focus for the Iona Community. Rick Johnston: agreed and said it would be transformational for the other local businesses. FM: an example of a location in Queenstown in New Zealand that would be similar enough to the Mac. Ensuite rooms rented by the month, with a communal kitchen and living area, only open to workers. Bénédicte: will pass all of this on to Ruth Harvey. Encouraged people to contact Ruth directly as well. RJ: the update sent around sounds somewhat like a budget hotel rather than an indoor updated version of the youth camps or Camas. A budget hotel would compete with too many other local businesses, and would have the ability to fundraise that the local businesses do not. The youth camp / Camas-style focus would not conflict with anything else on the island and would be welcome. Alison Johnston: accommodation available for workers that is flexible would also benefit the Iona Community and could work in conjunction with the youth groups you are wishing to attract. Dot Stewart: it’s all still be decided and an important aspect will be that it is not detrimental to the island or any businesses here. Those with views/ concerns encouraged to follow up with IC leader directly.

AOB:

Neil Jardine –

Is there any plan for the advertising noticeboard? It needs updated and it’s fallen down.

Discussion –

Gordon Bruce confirmed it will be updated. Rob MacManaway will be asked if / when plans to repair it are in place.

Jane Martin –

Thanks to Finlay Macdonald for organising the Jubilee ceilidh that raised funds for the new defib at the Hall.

Gordon Bruce –

Iona Fire Service looking into offering a training session on the use of the island defibs in the winter.

Date of next meeting: 7 December