Community Council Minutes

Iona Community Council

Draft minutes of the quarterly meeting held online via Zoom on Thursday 10 June 2021 at 7.30pm

Present: Shiona Ruhemann (convening), Toben Lewis (minutes), Jane Martin, Dot Stewart, Katy Russon, Mark Jardine, 2 guests, 32 members of the public

Apologies: Morven Gibson, Mhairi Killin

Visitors: Emily Wilkins and Will Boyd-Wallis of NTS

Minutes of the previous meeting: signed off without amendments

Appreciation of the Trustees of Iona Village Hall Community Trust

Shiona Ruhemann

Seeing our new Hall coming to completion has been a light in the darkness in recent months, and, on 13 May, the island community took ownership of it. The Hall Trustees are thanking others, but we want to convey our huge heartfelt thanks to them. In appreciating the Hall Trustees, we also recognise and appreciate the enormous constant groundswell of voluntary commitment on which our community depends, and which is often unseen and unsung. 

We particularly thank the Hall Trustees for: 

The way they’ve made our beautiful new Hall come into existence: for all the vision, energy and creativity; for all the consultation and inclusion in the design and planning; for all their own efforts to raise funds – but also for mobilising and energising everyone to fundraise and to contribute funding. We can all easily think of lots of brilliant examples of inspiring, innovative individual fundraising. 

For the really outstanding quality of the Hall: it’s not just a space and a roof over our heads. Despite all the challenges – of funding, of a pandemic – there’s no compromise on design quality. The Hall sits on a historic and exceptionally sensitive site – at the intersection of the ‘road of the dead’, of historic views, of the Nunnery curtilage, beside the Carnegie Library, in a conservation area, on the main visitor route to the Abbey… But it doesn’t just respect this historic site – it really enhances it. As a building it’s quietly beautiful, and reinforces the important buildings around it. Inside as well, there is so much beautiful restrained thought-through design detailing. We’ll all have favourite examples, but one we probably all share is the stage, which is constructed from the floor of our much loved old Hall, polished and renewed. It’s like an organ transplant – a heart transplant – of the old to the new, one of many thoughtful symbols of continuity. 

For the sheer grinding hard work: for the meetings, the minutes, the slog, the crisis management, and sometimes the stress and sleepless nights, the personal and family time that’s been compromised. Being a Trustee is a big responsibility, including and well beyond financial management 

So to our Village Hall Trustees, enormous thanks – to: Gordon Bruce, Katie Gordon, Anja Jardine, Karen Johnston, Bec Knight, Fiona Kyle, Mairi MacDonald, Joanne MacInnes and Jana McLellan. 

Thank you also to the those who joined for shorter periods through this particular effort – such as Joyce McIntyre and Shona Walker. Thank you to the torch bearers who’ve looked after the Hall through the decades, up to this stage of renewal. And thank you to the friends, relatives, partners who’ve cherished and looked after our Trustees through all the highs and lows.  

Thank you all – for such a wonderful, fitting, exemplar Village Hall. 

Reports

Iona Village Hall Community Trust

Anja Jardine —

It’s been a long and tiring process, but all of the comments over the last few weeks have made it entirely worthwhile. Had a successful opening two weeks ago. Lots of positive comments and constructive criticism which will be taken on board. Hopes for a big opening bash when COVID allows. If you have yet to see the Hall please contact a Trustee and they will be happy to take you around. Princess Anne visited on Monday and was very positive about the building. Recognised the importance of the Hall to the island community. First booking has happened, and diary is starting to get more dates in it (use of Hall obviously currently constrained by COVID rules). Need a hall cleaner, ad will go out shortly but if interested let the Trustees know. If you’re using the Hall in the next year please make Trustees aware of any snagging issues. There are also some outstanding issues that Corramore are going to address. BlackLight (sound and lighting system) will be back next week to finish up. Foundation Scotland Funding will continue until end of 2021 to cover bookings that are volunteer led and not for profit. Final bills for construction and set up are being paid. Blinds and markings for the badminton court are highlighted for initial purchasing. 

Iona Renewables

Shiona Ruhemann —

As everyone knows, the background is that the ground source Heat Network was fully funded last year then hit a major but temporary COVID barrier, due to a surge in costs that at that time had to be loan funded (and could not be grant funded) under the rules of the subsidy, Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) – noting again that the challenge is not just a funding gap due to COVID-driven conflict with the RHI rules, but the Renewable Heat Incentive itself has now closed (end March this year) so there is currently no subsidy. A lot has to settle down – COVID, BREXIT, Scottish elections, Scottish Govt policy priorities, also the replacement to the Renewable Heat Incentive subsidy. 

So Scottish Govt wanted to work with us on an alternative solution, despite exhaustive Scot Govt-funded efforts having been already ben unable to come up with any viable alternative to the community ground source project, which Scottish Government has explicitly accepted is the “optimal solution” and the only possible collective/community project for Iona. Our sense and external advice increasingly has been that Scottish Govt has huge commitments and challenges on low carbon heat, and specific commitments to increase deployment of Heat Networks; the temporary COVID-driven challenges we and other projects have faced will have to be sorted out if Scottish/UK Govts are going to meet their commitments – so it makes no sense to throw out an exemplary, readymade project due to temporary roadblocks. 

In January, therefore, drawing on a lot of external advice, our MSP put requests to the Energy Minister that we halt on looking for an alternative, wait until at least May and then resume with the ground source Heat Network as the primary option on the table. 

Meanwhile, the policy environment has become even more favourable to the ground source project, very strongly reinforcing the logic of our MSP’s requests. Net zero is a top Scottish Govt priority and Scotland will be hosting COP26 this year, with lots of messaging about the urgency of delivering low carbon solutions (which, needless to say, has not exactly been our experience). Scottish Govt has been consulting on a new strategy, Heat in Buildings, which guides investment of £1.6 billion during this parliament in low carbon heat and energy efficiency for homes and businesses (not industrial buildings), which is incredibly aligned with what we’ve been working so hard to do on Iona. We’re directly consistent with other policy priorities, including the specific commitment for huge scale up of Heat Network deployment. In short, our project is a brilliant example of everything Scottish Govt is claiming that it is committed to doing. Conversely – if our experience is repeated, if it’s not redressed and if it’s not learnt from, we cannot see how these claims and commitments are not going to be realised.

We’ve been getting advice on how to proceed, and are meeting next week with our new MSP to discuss this. We’re very grateful to the Iona Community for such supportive messaging in the context of the high profile event on 7 June and for enabling such a supportive connection with the Princess Royal. In summary, there’s still a lot of disarray but beginning to move forward. 

Iona Broadband Committee 

Gordon MacCormick —

Scotland R-100 – Reaching 100%

The survey and design phase of the contract is ongoing, and is still expected to be finalised by the end of August. 

The underwater surveys for the subsea fibre cables, to be laid in the North Lot, are currently underway. It’s expected that those cables will be laid in the Spring of 2022. 

Two cables are to be laid in our area. One from Fionnphort to Iona, and another, from the Ross of Mull to Colonsay. 

EE 4G – Bendoran Mast

Openreach were onsite, on Monday 6th of June, to connect the mast radios to the fibre backhaul. There are a further two operations to be undertaken and then the mast goes live. 

EE have confirmed that the 4G service from the mast will be on Band 20 (800Mhz), only. They say, the reason for this is to do with the design of the mast, and the site, neither of which were decided by them, as they are only tenants at Bendoran. 

National Trust for Scotland 

Emily Wilkins —

The new P&O cruise ship called Iona wants to do maiden voyage on 9 August and wants to cruise past the island and film by helicopter. Want to do something for their guests and island — suggesting a tethered hot air balloon and firework display. Asked for comments or alternative suggestions. 

Discussion

Bénédicte Scholefield suggested a donation to the Village Hall; P&O has made a Hall donation  of £10,000, which is significant but e.g., one third of the donation of a local business. Mike Gordon raised issues about sensitivities with Iona’s brand and reputation on the one hand, and lack of connection with local businesses on the other; he suggested a Business Forum meeting to discuss issues and options, which was widely supported. Neil Jardine described approaching P&O about supplying seafood during the cruise-by; it was very difficult to reach the right contact and then the process was unworkable – would have required him to send the seafood to the south of England rather than supply it directly. Re P&O’s proposal for 9 August, Mark Jardine suggested that a hot air balloon and fireworks was not appropriate and this was view was widely supported. Emily asked for alternative proposals as she has to follow up with P&O. The Business Forum will meet and get back to Emily. 

Emily Wilkins —

Introduced Will Boyd-Wallis as new North West manager.

Will Boyd-Wallis —

Has been working as head of land management for Cairngorms National Park, and prior to that worked on the west coast. Will be on Iona on the 22 June. Happy to meet anyone while there. If you wish to meet with Will during his visit, speak to Emily. Finlay MacDonald asked what is happening about the cottage at Maol, which, it was explained, is a long-term recurring question that has been raised at several meetings in a context of significant accommodation shortages on Iona. Several proposed solutions have been put up internally in NTS, and none have been accepted. It was asked therefore whether it is time for NTS to relinquish the property so that another party can implement a solution. Will BW will speak to Emily to understand the history and issue; he’s been in post for 6 days only and was not yet aware of it.

Mull and Iona Ferry Committee 

Finlay MacDonald

There has been no response from the new Minister on the Indonesian catamaran proposal. CalMac are proceeding with Pentalina as long term solution on a yet to be announced route. If it was Craignure-Oban route it would be to replace the Coruisk. It only has one ramp so lorries have to reverse on or off. RMT members objected to the use of the Pentalina.

No further update on the Craignure pier.

Summer timetable changes for next year are required by 14 June. The COVID turnaround times may stay in the timetable.

Discussion –

Dot Stewart asked about reduced numbers on the ferry and if there is any chance of that changing soon. FM: CalMac and Transport Scotland are adamant this will not be altered until we are fully out of COVID. Numbers are really low and severely affecting the tourism industry. 

Sound of Iona Harbours Committee 

Finlay MacDonald

Surveys are being undertaken at the pier, will be ongoing until October. Photo montages provided by Council were disappointingly unrealistic and difficult to understand contextually, including out of scale Iona buildings. But the look of the structure of the breakwater gives a fairly good idea of what we would be getting. Work on wee pier is underway but behind schedule.

Discussion – 

Will Boyd-Wallis asked if the breakwaters would have pedestrian access. FM: it had been discussed early on but decided against. The design is specifically to break the swell, with boulders that move slightly during big seas, and an immovable concrete walkway would change how it worked. Mark Jardine asked of there was any update on culverts. FM: not yet. Sedimentation surveys should have been completed in spring but not yet finished. Dot Stewart: there was someone staying at pods surveying, thought that was sedimentation? Neil Jardine: That was probably Coastal Connections studying the tidal flow. 

MJ: have received comments asking about how the proposed breakwater design has been arrived at and whether everything achievable has been done to make the design fit into a sensitive environment. The Village Hall, as an example, enhances that sensitive context, and are we satisfied that the design process behind the breakwater has also been sufficiently considered? MJ agrees with these questions but perhaps it is too late and would not want to throw a spanner in. Suggested even an uneven profile could help and that it could mimic a more natural organic form instead of its profile being only straight lines. 

FM: very concerned that would delay progress. The client is the council and they have carried out their processes to consult. A careful choice of location and design has been made, for example, utilizing solid rock. Will make a huge difference to our lives.

Shiona Ruhemann: can clarification not be asked about regarding design in parallel with the project progressing, just as we collectively challenged the height proposed in the planning application whilst being unequivocal that the breakwater has to go ahead? Asked about the revised height of the breakwater – understand this responds to CalMac requirements, but do we know what the specific technical basis is of CalMac requirements? 

FM: it has been designed to meet CalMac’s minimum operating standards in worst case emergency scenarios. Height has been reduced by 2m and any further reduction would impact on its effectiveness to facilitate maximum service and counter sea level rise. It is a functional structure like the pier. 

MJ: could it look more like a natural part of the landscape and less man made? Recognize we are not the client and that limits influence. The Harbours’ Group has given input and been listened to (MJ clarified later this was sometimes). Asked for others views. 

FM: material has changed from concrete blocks to granite boulders which will weather and offer habitat. We have fought for this for its function and it’s touchable now. 

Mike Gordon added his agreement to Mark’s comments about design. Moya Pringle also echoed a request for more organic design. 

Neil Jardine questioned the timing of this conversation, feels it’s too late to question design. The chance has passed to feed in views. All the testing has been carried out for this structure and would need revisited if the shape or location are changed. This would delay the build. To re-examine the design would be a big step backwards.

Iona Community 

Jane Martin for Catriona Robertson —

We celebrated the re-opening of the refurbished living and community areas of the Abbey on Monday. It’s now warm, comfortable and much more accessible, with specially designed bedrooms and bathrooms and a lift. Water use is reduced. Insulation and energy-saving devices are reducing the amount of electricity needed until the island’s ground source heat project is completed. Thank you to the very many people on the island who contributed to the celebrations, with a special mention to Iona Primary School and the young pipers. The zoom recording of the service will be available towards the end of the month. The week before the official re-opening, we welcomed our first residential guests for three years, starting with Wildlife Week. Worship in the Abbey Church is bookable online through the Iona Community’s website www.iona.org.uk.

Bénédicte Scholefield —

Biggest news is of course that the Abbey has guests again, for the first time since 2018. COVID and snagging are presenting challenges. For the first time we have someone in a wheelchair staying at the Abbey and fully participating in the programme. The celebration event on Monday, with Princess Anne present, went very well. Happy that it coincided so well with the opening of the Village Hall and felt it was important to link with this and Renewables in the coverage the Abbey was receiving. Knows that it is all linked and none if it stands alone. Very thankful to everyone on the island that assisted. Lots of cameras were around as Songs of Praise was also filming, will let everyone know when that airs.

Iona Business Forum 

Dot Stewart —

No comments or issues have been raised outside of the ferry issue already raised.

Updates:

Namescape 

Shiona Ruhemann –

As flagged in previous meetings, Iona’s Namescape project is being implemented by a team at Glasgow University, including e.g. Mairi MacArthur. The project’s liaison group has three Iona-based members: Mhairi Killin (for Iona Cathedral Trustees), Toben Lewis and Shiona Ruhemann. Emily Wilkins is one of the Ross of Mull members. Please do contact them with or for any information regarding the project. The first meeting of the liason group is tomorrow (11 June).

The project’s purpose “is to survey the place-names of Iona and Staffa. We will also be researching the early records for the topography of Iona; the names of Iona’s monuments; and the relationship between Iona and Mull. A key part of our research involves trying to understand the dynamism of names and naming in Iona, both over the centuries, and among the different constituent communities who live on and interact with the island in the present”. 

The project liaison group (Knowledge Exchange Liaison Group – KELG) is expected to help with: 

  • Research: “We are looking for advice on the place-names of Iona and its environs, as well as advice about other people who might have particular perspectives or knowledge about the landscape and its names. In the project we are interested not only in the ‘official’ map names of the island, but also more locally used names, and the way in which people understand and interpret those names. We will also be looking to KELG to advise us as the various results of our research take shape, on their form and contents.”
  • Dissemination of research findings

Intended outputs include: 

  • An online interactive web resource on the place-names of Iona, Staffa and the Ross of Mull which will allow both the public and researchers to engage with the rich history of Iona’s namescape (scheduled to be available in 2022) 
  • A volume on the place-names of Iona and Staffa, to be published in the Survey of Scottish Place-Names series (scheduled to be published in 2023) 
  • A popular guide to the place-names of Iona and Staffa, designed for visitors to the islands, based on the data uncovered in our research 

SWMID Tourism Update 

Jane Martin reading from Celia Compton –

The group was created as part of the Nature-Scot funded local tourism consultation that took place during February-March 2021. Due to the nature of the funding, the timescale for the project was very tight. The outcome was a report that mainly comprised a summary of the themes that came out of the local consultation and a look at possible ways forward. The Advisory Group was brought in towards the end of the project to sense-check the report and provide information where relevant.

This year the group has been keeping in touch with what is happening locally just through email contact and may meet to discuss the season later in the year.

Visit Mull and Iona is on the group and it is hoped this will help to fill in gaps in the promotion of the area (this probably applies more to South West Mull than Iona in terms of marketing and visibility).

Campervans and camping continues to be a big issue and it is useful to share information about this.

Bench offer 

Jane Martin –

ICC was approached by American wanting to donate a bench for somewhere near the pier area for Joan Le Morvan. Suggested that the timing is not best for a project in the pier area. Asked for any other location suggestions.

Colmcille 1500 

Jane Martin –

Some people in Ireland are very keen to make connections for this anniversary. 7 December is the big day. Please contact Jane with any ideas or interest.

AOB:

Rusty objects at pier

Jana McLellan – 

Asked about the objects and how to have them removed.

Discussion – 

Mark Jardine said they appeared at the same time as the prep work on the wee pier and he was hoping they would be removed when they return to finish work.

Action – 

Jane Martin will photograph and make complaint, which worked the last time.

Executive head teachers and school clusters proposal from A+BC

Jane Martin – 

Had this issue on AoB but Councilors on the Community Services Committee this morning unanimously declined to endorse the proposal, and have required it to go through a proper consultation and engagement process before coming back to the Committee; timing tbc. This unanimous decision responds significantly to the serious concerns that ICC and others raised. Correspondence has been shared with Iona residents through mail chimp.   

A+BC environment, development, and infrastructure committee

Jane Martin – 

Without any consultation or discussion, the Council has identified certain car parks as available to be used by self sufficient camper vans. Lines and signage needs to be in place and there will be as-yet-unknown set numbers. Campervans will have to be 6m apart for safety regulation. The allocated car parks include those at Craignure and Fionnphort, which are integral components of our lifeline ferry services and which became incredibly sensitive through the Council’s handling of the Mull Traffic Regulation Order in 2018-19. Incredibly, the Council acknowledges that there has been no consultation and that it is a ‘pilot project’ that will be ‘monitored’.

Discussion

Finlay MacDonald noted the likelihood of overspill at Fionnphort given the car park is already really pressured. JM: number limits are being set but we don’t yet know what they will be. SWMID is challenging the proposal. Katy Russon would like to know how many spaces are being lost to these campervans. Neil Bruce stressed this will have serious impacts for Iona as well as there will be knock on effects for travelling islanders in Craignure and Iona visitors in Fionnphort. Like the parking charges there has been no recognition it doesn’t just affect Mull. 

AOB

Toilets are back open, although it took a few days for signage indicating otherwise. Fionnphort car park also re-opened, though the same issue occurred. Bunessan car park still filled with gravel, and still a couple piles of gravel in the Fionnphort car park. Finlay MacDonald asked for an update on the Historic Scotland tours. Jane Martin: guided tours cannot take more people until the 2m distance rule is relaxed. Aware the daily capacity is very restricted so looking at possibility of adding tour, but need to work within the Iona Community’s schedule as well. Rick Johnston asked about opening the grounds to allow people to at least walk around outside. JM: there are 10 doors into the building so it would be very difficult to manage the access. Concern about people trying the doors and walking in, as they had done last year. FM: asked about reduction in 2m distancing, and who they could be lobbying on behalf of HES. JM: Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions are campaigning very hard to reduce that restriction and happy to pass on information. FM asked if ICC could consider also adding their voice. 

Date of next meeting: 9 September 2021