Community Council Minutes

Iona Community Council

Draft minutes of the quarterly meeting held online via Zoom on Thursday 8 September 2021 at 7.30pm

Present: Shiona Ruhemann (convening), Toben Lewis (minutes), Jane Martin, Dot Stewart, Katy Russon, Mark Jardine, Rob MacManaway, 1 guest, 20 members of the public

Apologies: Gordon MacCormick, Emily Wilkins

Visitors: Clea Warner from NTS

Minutes of the previous meeting: signed off without amendments

Iona Community Council update 

Jane Martin —

It's been a busy three months since the last meeting. Shiona has met with a variety of people and organisations on Iona including the NTS, our MP and our MSP to discuss pertinent issues and ensure engagement with us. We’ve been involved in discussions on CalMac’s fleet and operations and also cancellations and will be pursuing the impact of them on the school children. We’ve kept an eye on various proposals such as the school consultation, more about that later. We have been involved in healthcare, emergency planning and motorhomes. We’ve provided sanitiser around the pier and I’ve taken quite a few pictures of the public toilets as we have pursued the council to get progress on repair and improvement. We held our prep meeting in the new hall which was very exciting but decided to hold this meeting online. There’s a lot and please do remember that we are volunteers working on all this in our own time. You’ll be aware that we have a google group so you can reach all seven of us in the ICC via A reminder too that you can drop notices into my porch to go on the board – it’s great to have more notices to put up but I’m going to get strict on the A5 sizing again.


Iona Renewables

Shiona Ruhemann —

Much needed good news. For a whole year the Scottish Government position has been that the ground source heat network is written off due to COVID impacts which made it temporarily unaffordable overnight. We’ve declined to accept this position because the reasons the project couldn’t go ahead last year are transitory, they apply to all projects – i.e., if our Heat Network can’t proceed we don’t see how any Heat Network can proceed – and they are no longer relevant. 

Scottish Government has now confirmed that they are supportive of the Iona Heat Network and will do what they can, working together with us, to secure a full funding solution so that the project can be delivered. This change of position follows: a positive Times Opinion piece on the project on 5 Aug; and our MSP met on 5 August with Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, in which Jenni Minto shared our case on the facts of the project and its relevance to Scottish Government’s policy commitments. The timing is important, i.e., far enough after the May elections and with COP26 approaching.

The reason that Scottish Government is talking about supporting us to secure a "full funding solution” is that we had a full funding package in place immediately pre-COVID. But – as with all major low carbon heat projects – this funding partly includes loans that would be repaid through the UK subsidy, Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). The RHI scheme is now closed and UK and Scottish Governments are working out what will replace it. Scottish Government won’t be able to fund any project 100% (partly due to new subsidy rules), so there will be some funding gap that we need to fill, amount tbc; but we appreciate assurance that we will have support to secure full funding. Officials are working through several issues and will get back to us with more detail on next steps.

Particular thanks to: Jenni Minto, Brendan O’Hara, Malcolm Robertson, Elliot Ross 

Iona Village Hall Community Trust

Jane Martin on behalf of IVHCT —

Things are picking up in terms of use, with bookings for use by playgroup, school PE, tai chi, circuits, pilates, bookbinding, weddings and Mull theatre amongst others.

Still waiting on public entertainment license.

Hoping for a bonfire night celebration, watch for announcement.

The Iona Village Hall Music Festival team had a successful weekend of filming and ironing out issues with sound and light systems.

Many thanks to Malcolm Menzies for taking time out of his family holiday to take photos of the Village Hall. Malcom is a featured photographer in many glossy magazines and we look forward to sharing his photos soon.

There will be a 2022 calendar and a call has been put out for photo contributions. More info on Iona Stuff.

Blinds are scheduled for October but likely to be later as they’re very complicated.

Working on rebound boards for football, badminton nets, stage banisters, funding reports, booking and key systems, other furnishings, snagging list, and other pieces.

Still have to raise £11k but have until April to do so.

Following up with P&O thanks to contact from John and Rachel.

Iona Broadband Committee 

Jane Martin reading report from Gordon MacCormick —

Scotland R-100 – Reaching 100%

The survey and design phase of the contract is now complete, and the build phase will begin this month, in the Oban area.

The subsea fibre cables will be laid in the Spring of 2022 and the new network, for Iona and the Ross of Mull, is scheduled to be built in the first half of 2023.

It will be an entirely new, full Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) network, completely separate from our existing copper landline network, and will be capable of delivering data download speeds of up to one gigabit per second (1Gbps).

Initial checks done on the online database show that the vast majority of premises on Iona will be able to connect to the new fibre network, from Culdamph in the south, to Lagandorain, in the north. However, five of the most recent builds on the island are shown as not having a connection to the new network.

We have asked for clarification on the status of those premises, and await the answer. In the meantime, all residents should access the R100 online checker to confirm that their own address is included, and that the details are correct.

When the time comes, connection to the new network will not be automatic. Each subscriber will need to enter a new contract, with an ISP, on the new fibre network. For that reason, and to avoid any contract penalties, consideration needs to be given to the length of any ISP contract entered into, prior to the new network being ready.

EE 4G – Bendoran & Fionnphort

EE’s 4G service, from the Bendoran site, went live on the 11th of August. Mobile phone reception in the area is greatly improved, and for those with direct line of sight of the mast, data download speeds of around 25Mbps are now available.

However, although a signal is available, in the main population centres, at Bunessan and Upper Ardtun, it is reduced to around one third of its strength. This is due to the high ground to the east of the mast, partially blocking the signal, into those areas.

Now that EE’s fibre backhaul is connected back to their national mobile network, and in operation from Bendoran, we expect that they will now be able to schedule the fibre connection, and upgrading of their Fionnphort mast, to 1800Mhz (Band 3).

EE have been asked for an update on their plans for Fionnphort, and we await their response.

Public Switched Telephone Network – Switch Off

The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) is the proper name for our copper landline voice telephone network, operated by BT Openreach.

Openreach intend to switch off the PSTN nationally, in 2025. This has been known for some time, but has only recently received any attention from the Press, and the public.

As would be expected, this is raising some concerns, and there is a fair bit of misinformation going around about what the switch off will actually mean for people’s landline phones, and their ability to contact the emergency services when required.

At present, the majority of households in the UK receive two separate services through our copper landlines, our voice telephone service, and our broadband service. After PSTN switch off, in 2025, we will continue to receive our broadband service through the copper landline, but the voice telephone service will cease to work.

The voice telephone service is being moved, from the Public Switched Telephone Network, on to the broadband network. For most of us that will mean unplugging the telephone from the BT wall socket, connecting it to an adapter, and plugging it into our broadband router, instead. Our landline telephones will then work, over the broadband network, using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

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, for both the telephone, and the broadband router, so that they will continue to work in the event of a power cut.

OFCOM are currently in consultations with Openreach, and Service Providers, about how the changeover will be implemented, and those discussions include who will be responsible for supplying the battery backup power required.

National Trust for Scotland 

Clea Warner —

Our footpath repair team visited in mid-August, continuing with work to the Columba's Bay and Marble Quarry routes.

We're delighted that Rachel McKean has taken up the role of Shelter caretaker enabling it to be fully open once again.

Staffa infrastructure – two online consultations were held recently during which project architects presented plans for new stairways to replace the ladders giving access to the top of the island, and a new platform at the top of the pier. These works will help alleviate problems with overcrowding in this area and ensure infrastructure is fit for purpose for years to come. Works will be carefully planned to have as minimal an impact on wildlife, landscape and visitor access as possible. We are keen to be informed by local knowledge and expertise and have already received some comments which have contributed to more detailed development of the designs. If anyone would like more information they can email and we are happy to answer any questions. A planning application will be submitted shortly and supportive comments in response to this would be very helpful.

Maol Cottage – we have been in discussion with Andrew Prentice over ideas for the building but as yet no further progress to report.  

Will Boyd-Wallis is visiting Iona on Monday 27th September – if anyone would like to discuss any issues in person with him:

Discussion –

Finlay MacDonald asked about sign at crossroads saying 1.5 miles to Columba’s Bay. It’s not overly clear which direction it’s pointing people. CW will check if it is NTS is responsible for this sign and let Emily know.

Dot Stewart highlighted the fundraising campaign for the Mull and Iona Ranger Service, who have lost all funding except for the NTS. Shared the link via chat ( CW commended Emily and the Ranger Service and committed to continue to supporting them.

FM asked about time frame for Maol. CW agreed an end date needs to be decided and will move forward with this. Shiona Ruhemann added that in the last ICC meeting we discussed a situation of proposals being put forward within NTS to address Maol cottage and none have received management support; if NTS doesn’t have a plan, the question was: is it time to hand over the cottage, so a solution can be implemented? CW agreed a decision needs to be reached, and will get back to us.

Mull and Iona Ferry Committee 

Finlay MacDonald

Have received a definite no on the proposed catamaran, and we had and then didn’t have the Pentalina. So not any further forward.

Met with Graham Dey, new transport minister, alongside Joe Reade and Moray Finch. Agreed that ferries are a problem and said that he is there to be a problem solver for the government but is responsible for all transport so has a lot on his plate. Keen to reset the relationship with the Ferry Committee. And pro-community involvement. Confirmed they are not against catamarans as a concept. Have another meeting with them soon to further discussions.

In advance of discussions on replacement vessel for MV Isle of Mull Joe Reade is trying to gather a specification of user requirements as an addition to the specification of operation requirements that will be supplied by CalMac. Hopefully when these two are merged it will create a list of requirements for a more robust and reliable service. Transport Scotland are open to this but have cautioned that it needs to be realistic.

It should be noted that mentions of a ‘smaller boat’ are in fact boats similar in size to the Isle of Mull. Smaller refers to their size in comparison to the larger boats in the fleet such as Isle of Lewis of new 801/802 vessels..

There have been issues getting short notice bookings. Angus Brendan McNeill suggested via MCC an incremental booking system. At the start of a booking period you would offer 70% of the capacity, and then 20% closer to the time, and the last of the capacity in the few days running up to it. This would allow for bookings from a larger range of types of bookings. Ferry Committee thought that a slightly simpler version (ie 80/20) might be more feasible.

If we moved to a three ferry service in the future, we could potentially move to an unbookable service as that would alleviate a lot of the timing pinch points.

Bus timetable was discussed in the most recent MCC meeting, alarm that there is only an early bus on a Monday for the school kids and no early service for the rest of the week. This has been the case since the start of COVID. ICC had asked for the 9 o’clock ferry to be maintained as it meets the more likely ferry to run during winter darkness months. Hopefully WestCoast Motors will be reviewing this soon.

School kids came back on an earlier ferry last week due to cancellations and were not able to get on the bus as they had not been booked on. Technically this was not a service bus, it was a WCM tour bus that they allow public passengers on if there’s space.

Huge thanks from all on Iona to Hickey for his over 30 years of service on the Iona ferry, and wish him a good retirement.

Discussion –

Shiona asked about the discussion with Graham Dey and if MIFC felt concerns around the handling of the catamaran decision were addressed. FM: we agreed to disagree, ScotGov maintain the position it would not have passed the safety requirements despite reports that clearly indicate otherwise. But it is what it is and we need to move on. A promise was made that the longed for winter timetable would be in place this year with the Pentalina, but now the Pentalina is out of the picture there are no answers on how or what is going forward.

Robin MacCormick asked about the justification around the catamaran and asked it it’s worth challenging the decision. FM: it has been challenged extensively and right to the top. SR also pointed toward the very full, informative and factual press release put out by the Ferry Committee in response to the decision.

Sound of Iona Harbours Committee 

Mark Jardine

Sound of Iona Harbours Committee have received notification of an EIA scoping report on the ‘Fionnphort Breakwater and Overnight Berth Project’ being carried out by RPS Group on behalf of Argyll and Bute Council. There is no clarity on whether or not Iona’s breakwater is included in the scope of this report.

A discussion was had on Monday amongst the SoIHC and the following points were brought up:

  • SoIHC have noted that the Marine Scotland consultation has missed out 2 statutory consultees – Iona Community Council and National Trust for Scotland.
  • One of the objectives of the EIA is to “define other projects and plans that may need to be considered as part of an assessment of cumulative impacts”. We are concerned that transport, pier facilities, pier surroundings and marine tourism are not being considered as part of the scoping exercise.
  • While we understand that A&BC are committed to building an overnight berth for the ferry in Fionnphort and an improved pier on Iona, and are not developing other aspects, a much more holistic approach to the scoping exercise should be applied to ensure that other developments or plans are not undermined but can be supported by the development. 
  • The Sound of Iona Masterplan was commissioned by SWMID in 2013.  The plan was consulted on widely within the local community and local people saw it as a sensible approach of developing infrastructure to address the aim of facilitating regeneration in the settlements on each side of the sound.
  • The principal development concepts involved safe berthing and landing for the ferry (currently being addressed by A&BC); redesign of the pathways, coach and car parking facilities; redevelopment of the visitor facilities and provision of commercial spaces; ferry passenger management on Fionnphort and Iona; marine tourism opportunities.
  • The masterplan was signed off by the community and also the Argyll and Bute Council Oban, Lorn and the Isles Area Committee.
  • It is fundamental that the EIA scoping exercise considers the impacts and possibilities of the Fionnphort/Iona Berthing and Breakwater developments in relation to future projects.  Future projects include not only those which the community intend to progress in line with the Sound of Iona Harbours Masterplan but also future work which A&BC may progress including path, road, and parking improvements and developments.
  • SoIHC believe that if carried out in a more holistic capacity then the results of the scoping exercise could contribute to enabling future projects.
  • An economic analysis to demonstrate the impact of the harbour developments would be valuable for all stakeholders.

(It should be noted the above is still in draft form and has not yet been ratified by all who were present.)

ICC sense is that the consensus on Iona is that these projects are fundamentally important developments that need to go ahead without further delay, but sensitively, sustainable, and with consultation with the communities impacted. ICC was not notified as a statutory consultee. Iona Breakwater needs to be fully considered, though not necessarily with a separate EIA.

Island residents can respond online by 19 September, or by raising your concerns with ICC.

Discussion –

Robin MacCormick: The document seemed entirely related to the Fionnphort side so did not feel there was an opportunity to comment. MJ agreed this was one of the issues, and that this was one of the key points that needs flagged and the Iona side needs considered on an equal basis. RM saw in the document that Iona will be coming later. Finlay MacDonald said the majority of the scoping will be the same for both sides (sedimentation, wildlife, etc) but that some details such as material assets are currently very vague so there is no assurance they are being considered. SWMID has been asking for a full update on, for instance, dredging but we currently do not have a communication line within A+BC. RM asked about confirmation of the shape and design of the breakwater. FM said that it’s the same as was concluded from the planning application to the best of his knowledge but, again, due to not having contact within A+BC don’t have confirmation yet. MJ could not find any reference in this Fionnphort document to a later report for Iona, it is only a sub paragraph in an appendix. There was a meeting today with marine operations about potential hazards, essentially a risk assessment. Raised concerns there about the approach to the pier and how it will affect vessels. FM: CalMac has asked for the piles on the south side to not be put in, so there’s a good possibility they won’t happen. MJ: Project lead today has confirmed they are in discussion but have not committed that those are being removed.

Mhairi Killin prefaced comments with 100% commitment to the breakwater, but that this document and absence of consultation is very concerning and does not give confidence to the process or its integrity. There is no sign of the online consultation that was promised. Had been waiting until this consultation to speak up but now as it appears to not be happening, shares the concerns of ICC. When is there going to be an opportunity in parallel with the EIA that Iona will be delivered the best design possible and fit for purpose breakwater within the budget, with all the environmental and visual factors fully considered. Cultural heritage is expressly not being considered, though landscape and visual is, because there is more than a 500m distance between the breakwater and the heritage buildings. But the first impression of the buildings is from the sea and the jetty. FM: The first impression of not getting to Iona at all, or getting soaked up to your knees on landing isn’t a good one either. Visual impact is incredibly difficult to discuss because aspects of it are quite subjective. MK: Looking for the opportunity for discussion, which is not being had and the lack of NTS, ICC, and SWMID as consultees is of great concern. We understand the challenges but would still like the opportunity to ask questions and seek assurances. MJ: The omission of consultees illustrates clearly that we are not being properly consulted and gives us the opportunity to ask for the promised consultation, as well as commenting on the EIA as best possible. FM: Nuts that we’re not properly consulted and the Fionnphort Piers masterplan is not being drawn on either, as well as consideration of traffic management, etc. Future opportunities should be scoped in, even if not asking the Council to commit to delivery of them. MK: Don’t want us to miss an opportunity here. There is a legitimate gap that we can step into and ask for consultation and for some of these wider issues to be scoped in. Let NTS, SWMID, and ICC look at the scoping report and have a say as well. Don’t want to leave it too long and risk putting brakes on the project which is not wanted at all. FM: A lot of the design has already been undertaken and there was opportunity for consultation over the long process to get where we are. To change the design now would potentially put things back. Robin MacCormick: Think we need an opportunity to make comment on what is happening on the Iona side. Still very unclear on what is meant to happening here outside of the planning application which has received a great deal of negative comment. MJ: Plans used in the risk assessment meeting today were essentially the same as in planning application but with modifications to the height on this side and length and angle of dogleg in Fionnphort. They are still not finalised. Neil Jardine: Need to be very careful about how much pushback we want to give as there’s a very real chance the Council will just focus on Fionnphort instead and the Iona side will fall off the plan. MK: Not looking to block or change the design, looking to more fully understand the decisions that were made and how and why, and understand the assessments have been made and mitigations are in place. MJ: Ideally we can have further consultation where we can speak to the design team and ask these questions in order to understand the decisions. It does not need to hold up or halt the process, it just helps everyone understand and be informed. SR: All of us are involved as residents, not engineers, and the design is not based on our personal taste. Appropriate design is a core professional responsibility, and the professional team has to be able to account for the design process and decisions. We’ve seen this with the Village Hall, for example. WT Architecture would be able and willing to account for the Hall’s design to whoever asked, whether they were the client or not. The breakwater team should be able to answer any questions for us. We hear what Neil is saying, and the intention is to ensure that there are no repeats of the planning application experience, to expedite the process, not derail it, to make sure that everything important is covered and addressed fully.

Iona Community 

Lyn Meier —

Invitation to all island residents to afternoon tea and a walk around the refurbished living quarters of the Abbey this Sunday at 3pm – 4.30pm. Book at the Community Shop or via

The last snagging is being carried out by contractors before the final handover to the Iona Community.

The second Community Week begins this Saturday, with many Community Members staying in accommodation across the island. There is one more Community Week during the third week in October.

Author events will be taking place during Community Week, tbc, open to the public (please book at the Community Shop).

The Abbey continues to take COVID seriously, with regular testing of staff and protective measures.

The Iona Community is encouraged by the latest news from the Iona Heat Network.

Thank you to everyone who has continued to support the work of the Abbey during the summer months.


Jane Martin —

Morag Snell has stepped down as our rep on the Patient Participation Group. Huge thanks to her for all of her time. Rona has now stepped up to take this on.

Rona Muckart Lilley —

PPG meetings are open to everyone, but will be going to all and happy to take positive or negative feedback forward if anyone has anything they wish to raise. 

There was a meeting last week where the themes of inflexible protocols for the area, gaps in training in local emergency situations, and communication difficulties were identified in a number of recent cases.

The Practice would like complaints raised directly with them and not through the PPG.

There are still PCR tests registered with Bunessan surgery available in the bunker and can be picked up and put into the mailbox ASAP. You can also get tests from the fire service, but need to call ahead to book these for pick up.

PCR tests need posted very quickly so can’t be done over the weekend as there’s no postal service. They should be taken if you have a positive lateral flow test, two or more void tests, or if you have been identified as a close contact of someone with a positive test. 

Iona Business Forum 

Dot Stewart —

Reminder that the A+BC Discretionary Hardship Fund for businesses has opened today.

Katy Russon —

Following on from last meeting’s discussion around P+O and the cruise ship Iona. IBF met following that but did not reach a consensus on how we could collectively move forward. But given there was already a relationship between P+O and IVHCT this has been referred on to them.

South West Mull and Iona Development 

Jane Martin reporting for Celia Compton —

The campervan waste disposal unit is set up in Bunessan. There is a £10 honesty charge but would prefer people to use it regardless to avoid disposal via the public toilets which they are not set up for and caused problems for local residents. Their community Forester is looking for seed collectors on Monday 13th sept at Tiroran Forest for replanting.

Historic Environment Scotland

Jane Martin —

We have opened up our operation as restrictions have eased and are on our fifth version which is capacity managed half hour admission slots. This means we have tickets available for 25 people per half hour but there is no limit on how long people spend on site and no room management although we ask visitors to be kind and aware of others. The posters which Chris distributed are still valid – people follow a link and it will take them to a booking page. We are still encouraging pre-booking but there may be walk up availability. We do go onto winter operations on 1 October so the number of slots will reduce. At the moment there are 12 slots of 25 so capacity of 300. Last week we had 1049

You’ll be aware 2020 was the year of coasts and waters and this was extended into 2021. HES had been planning a big event at Urquhart and this became a short film which will be premiered next month online. Some was filmed at Iona Abbey in August using projections onto the buildings. This might become part of the Colmcille 1500 pinnacle which is 7th December, the 1500th anniversary of Columba’s birth.

We have a vacancy for a year round steward – this is full time for the summer six months and part time over the winter. The closing date is 22 September and you can apply online via our website and follow the link work with us Historic Environment Scotland. There’s an advert (A5) on the notice board.

Discussion –

Finlay MacDonald: Should we still be telling people they have to pre-book? JM: If they can pre-book they should, but there is now a possibility there will be space if they walk up.


Rural Crime Unit visit 15 September 

Jane Martin –

The RCU was intending to visit next week and were keen to meet people, but have had to postpone.

Argyll and Bute Council Schools Consultation 

Jane Martin –

You might remember at the end of the previous meeting there was mention of an Argyll and Bute Council proposal to make changes to schooling. The time for communities to assess and respond was less than one week. A strong reaction was conveyed to the council over this process and elected members agreed the a decision could not proceed without robust engagement. ICC has raised this handling with the Islands Minister, our MSP and the council leader emphasising that the Islands Act requires identification and assessment of island impacts and overall the need to consult meaningfully with communities. Again, we are using volunteer time to hold authorities to account.


Katy Russon –

What is the service situation at the Abbey? Lyn Meier: Same as HES, encourage people to book online but can walk up now as well. Please come 15 minutes beforehand if you’re not pre-booked so there is time to take your details.

Date of next meeting: 25 November (tbc)