Iona Community Council Minutes

Iona Community Council

Draft minutes of the quarterly meeting Wednesday 8 June 2022 in Iona Village Hall.

Welcome – Willie Hume Ward 4 Councillor

Apologies – Gordon MacCormick, Emily Wilkins, Rona Muckhart, Mhairi Killin, Toben Lewis, Katy Black

In attendance – Shiona Ruhemann, Rob Macmanaway, Mark Jardine and Jane Martin plus 16 members of the community

AGM Accounts – Rob Macmanaway

The audited combined accounts for 2020 / 2021 and 2021 / 22 were presented and approve by the meeting. (Download PDF of accounts here.)

AGM Report – Jane Martin

For the reports about ICC operation and business, I always look over the emails in the ICC file. The first one in the last year was about the toilets and these and bins featured quite a bit.

If I had to sum up the last year in one issue I’d say Argyll and Bute Council schools proposal which took up a huge amount of time and you’ll hear much more of later.  We undertook engagement with a wide range of people and organisations. This included those standing as councillors for our area and sharing that information with you all in order for you to make an informed choice. We have our meetings, and I’m very glad to be back in person, and use Mailchimp to keep you informed throughout the year.

As a quick run through of things outwith tonight’s agenda:

Part of SWMID’s Tourism Advisory Group, Iona Namescape project, found reps like Rona and more about finding representatives further on

Kept an eye on planning applications and highlighted and commented

COVID advice, support, comment around testing and travel, filled sanitising units

Event, media requests, music videos

Responded to consultations including breakwaters and Boundary Commission, Community Councils, housing stock, funding bids for equipment to allow hybrid meetings and promoted resources and the census.

Issues such as campervan staycations, transport and seagrass.

Organised defibs and benches

Put up posters, reviewed our emergency plans, had Zoom problems, looked for gravestones, talked to people about scattering their ashes,. Don’t underestimate the random things people ask us.

Some of us met Princess Anne, some of photographed locked toilets and overflowing bins

Supported other CC’s initiatives from our experiences

Liaised with the Police, MSPs, MPs, CalMac, many parts of A&B Council and their sub contractors, media and many others.

We’ve been mistaken for A&BC and it’s pleasing to pass some things on!

We’ve asked lots of questions and had help from a wide range of people. In particular I’d like to thank Dot who was a co-opted member for two years and Neil Bruce who has given a lot of time and expertise on the schools proposal in particular this year but across other topics.

I’m going to finish on a look to the future. Autumn is the end of this term of Community Councils and there will be elections across A&B in October. All of us will stand down and a new CC will be elected. This is your opportunity to stand or persuade a neighbour, colleague or partner. The CC is important, we’ve achieved good things important things but we need fresh blood, new ideas.

Priority issues for sustainable resilient islands:

Mull and Iona Ferry Committee – Finlay Macdonald, meeting Thursday 9th.

Loch Frisa next week in service, Coruisk will move away. All year round sailing is main benefit so commutable timetable for Mull. Winter timetable tbc. Dry dock schedule also tbc. Can’t book winter yet. Still walk on via deck but longer plan to change Craignure pier will fix this.

Samso booking system. Different model to allow local people / regulars get a green card and get priority over time system builds up data on local use and reserves on an agile system. Late turn up locals still get priority, compensation for those put off. Communities keen, CalMac sceptical as might put tourists off. MIFC note no evidence to support that. From winter timetable a new booking system will be in place – digital, scan ticket, allows more accurate filling of service as uses actual length of vehicles. Less chance of getting on a full sailing.

Isle of Mull replacement. Procurement slipping but in process. Three boat solution? Three small boats Isle of Mull size. Resilience, moveable to other routes for short term relief. Seems to be some acceptance but linkspan space short just now. Craignure option? berthed south side of Craignure pier already. 39 staff so employment for Mull.

Question –  about Stuart Ballantyne presentation, he builds catamarans successfully. Safety record – bulkheads filled with foam, double skinned, better accident survivability exceeds 30 % standard success rate. This method is suggested as 99% . SB met Robbie Drummond – may be change in CalMac / CMal operations? SB suggests cheaper build than traditional fleet. Turn design process around – what needed then ask for design rather than this is what we want.

3 boats may not need booking system at all as no pinch points due to regular services.

Medical protocol – emergency appointment will get taxi to appointment as far as Glasgow but not return.

Question - SG listening to Ferry Committee rather than ‘resetting relationship’? Very positive Jenny Gilruth and has read FC material , Jenny Minto working on relationship.

Question - Is school absence known? Yes. 30% absence verified by High School

Loch Buie back. Short shipping, ferry full but has to wait for scheduled time. not allowed to run additional sailings in advance. FM taken up with Iain Slorach? and should be agreed. Start non timetabled period early? Skippers discretion best as need scheduled times for connections. All about protocols as consistency. Works here due to short distance. Is cost neutral for Iona.

Breakwater – not much movement. Environmental impact assessment still the issue and controlled by Marine Scotland and is in draft.

Action - Letter from CC on this – community supportive, facing another winter of poor service and massively damaging impacts (see e.g. above 30% winter term absence rate for Iona children at Oban High School), ask what can we do to help or push. CC has written to Jenny Minto.  Sent 14 June 22.

Uncertainty what marine licenses have been applied for. Councillor Andrew Kain is aware and will visit and meet harbour committee and investigate marine licences. Seagrass will be impacted by dredging and captures carbon. Nature Scotland has been against project for this reason but an expert says regrowth, replant possible and not a unique variety. Not vanity project so should trump this. Update imminent on this and jetty from Scott Reid – unfinished and materials left by hall and fire station. Andrew Kain is aware but legal problems with contractors. Low tide issue and missing good weather. Iona breakwater side ready for planning, Fionnphort small bit of work required to amend and is agreed by CalMac.

Response from Willie Hume – 50m project to build new pier. Pier dues collected for years on Craignure, Iona and Fionnphort but little spend. Example another ferry model – Isle of Wight ferries run by Red Funnel – private no subsidy. Similar pricing to pre RET.  Two sailing run concurrently for 20 hours also passenger only service and replace boats every 4 years. Three entities – CalMac, CMal and Macbraynes need to be better combined.

Request to Willie Hume – we’re in the same position as three months ago with the seagrass, no progress; request he liaises with Andrew Kain on seagrass. Agreed. Finlay made point this is a crisis - council should be working on this continually to remove these issues.

Argyll and Bute Council’s proposed Collective Leadership Model – Head Teacher removed himself from the meeting

It’s a full year tomorrow since the Council’s proposal exploded into the open to restructure schools, remove head teacher and centralise decision making in remote executive heads – without having had any public consultation, and within a week of elected members on the Community Services Ctee being expected to approve officers’ recommendations, that would have allowed officers to implement their proposed school leadership model, including establishing Executive Headships. That decision was paused by community outcry, and officers instructed by the Committee to come back when they’d carried out public consultation. We’ve been subjected to a process since then which is NOT consultation – community reps have said consistently this is a marketing exercise behind a single solution, which is driven by claims and assertions turned into marketing messages, but which is not driven or supported by any underlying evidence-based case (e.g. consistent, proven rationale, supportive evidence, or any assessment of risks of this model).

We’ve tried incredibly hard for a whole year to extract from the Council its underlying case, and made no progress whatsoever – more and more claims and assertions. Last week, through FOI, the Council relented and released a number of documents, which are taking time to work through. The information does include procurement documents/ Terms of Reference for the marketing company that was appointed prior to the scheduled decision last June, to market the Council’s proposal – which the Council since describes as ‘consultation’.

The Terms of Reference/Invitation to Tender for this contract states the Council is: “seeking specialist support to develop marketing products and a brand identity, with associated narrative, designed to influence a variety of stakeholders that our concept of executive head teachers managing a cluster of schools with a supporting leadership team offers improved benefits to them”. Stand’s bid states: The goal is to drive acceptance of the school clusters concept”.

This experience is massively worrying for our children’s education – but also for the way the Council operates and treats its communities.  There has been an extremely articulate, extraordinarily consistent response from Parent Councils and Community Councils across Argyll & Bute rejecting the proposal and the way that the Council is operating

Yet, who is listening? The CEO stated to MCC (27.4.22): “The Council are fully committed to developing a culture of engaging and consulting with our communities in a positive manner while recognising the recent exercise undertaken in respect of the Education Change Programme is a good example of this”. 

Others may wish to comment – but would like to hear from the Councillor, what are his thoughts and how can this situation be resolved without further damage including to trust and relationships between the Council and its communities?

Response from Willie Hume – his view: it’s not going to happen. Everyone’s against it. Proposal – what is it they want to do? Schools can’t be closed on financial ground; if no children, will be mothballed. Why houses sold, so now means getting teachers is difficult as no accommodation? Process flawed and trust is damaged. Should be informed and given chance to shape before decisions made. Should not close small schools. Hearing not happening but no official word so far.

Question - timeframe for consultation? We hear STAND was reporting yesterday – the marketing agency who’s stated its goal as “to drive acceptance of the concept” has been tasked with analysing responses from stakeholders!

Question – what is the plan? Committee meeting scheduled for end August. Full council meeting end of June, WH suggests this proposal will be discussed. Willie could add to agenda. FOI information is very damaging. Council says in its Invitation to Tender the concept will not change, so it’s not a consultation. Full council vote or committee? Transparency important says Willie. SG gave advice that this info ICC and others had requested for six months should be shared.

Question – community response has been massive work and parking charges were the same. This is massive volunteer effort to avoid active harm. Is there a realistic chance of better system of asking before decision? We are fighting fires all the time, can we change to more transparent way? Change pushed by this pressure. Rick and Mark noted this is volunteer time and effort on specific issues. If volunteers could use their energy pro-actively what could be achieved rather than prevent harm. Can’t keep going on effort and waste of public money, destructive and wasteful. Community groups sick of fighting and council must think about how it operates.

Question -  pre-empting consultation by marketing, spin, use of council time, volunteer time, money for company, instead harness positive energy for progress rather than countering. Is anyone accountable? Chief Executive and Executive Director are both accountable.

No comfort as yet. Willie Hume could bring up at the full council meeting and will talk to all four ward 4 councillors to work together. Two are on the Community Services Committee. Comment: there needs to be a plan.

Operational issues

Toilets and bins – neither fit for purpose, yet  they are the first impressions for visitors to the island.

Previously A&B Council offered a scheduled uplift or skip.

Response from Willie Hume - Bins are abused and the response is to remove them. Lack of council budget. £54m cut from spend in last ten years. Next 5 years between £23m and £44m got to be found. Difficult decisions. Dot – schedule does make a better use, pay small fee to be removed responsibility. Use CC funds? Difficulty to get skip come to come over. Special uplift slow – hotel waiting ten weeks already. No capacity even if paying commercial rates. No solution? Unacceptable to fly tip or first impression. Expense of trip to Tobermory to the municipal tip.

Opportunity for breakwater and land reclamation and provision for toilets and pound for bins. Toilets not fit for purpose but council have no obligation to provide toilets. Could CC take over toilets? If not required to use energy on items as above perhaps. MICT have taken over Calgary toilets and they are much better.

Action - Rob will approach MICT. Cannot encourage tourism and have no toilets. Willie will follow up re uplift. Passed to Jim Smith by WH.

Reports:

Iona Village Hall

Successful opening and great to see it in use. Whisky raffle £920. Use to buy equipment. Fiona Kyle is manager of hall - 231 booking or 655 hours of hall use booked already this year. 5 weddings, at end of snagging, fundraising for stairs for stage, chairs for gathering space and tables, roof light controls, adjust kitchen door to allow external access, please raise any issue when hall is used. Aileen Farquhar visitor to island gave hall committee Book of Kells but not good place for display – library not in use, heritage centre? – Gordon will ask.

Question - Can visitors see the hall? Contact Fiona to ensure it’s free, prioritise use of hall over viewing. Can’t commit to regular open times.

Iona Renewables

Major project hit by COVID now back on table. The big issue for Scottish Government confirming funding of the Heat Network is proving that the project’s financial model is viable long term – now that there is no longer a UK-level subsidy (Renewable Heat Incentive). SG has funded external technical work via Iona Energy Ltd to revise the financial model. The macro-economic context has increased costs, so we have to secure more funding than we would have done pre-COVID when the project was on the point of going to construction. Some of this funding is loans, which are no longer repaid by subsidy, and have to be repaid by heat sales – so we’re having to revise the tariff, but still achieving savings and all the other benefits – including reduced (halved) exposure to price volatility. Revised financial model going through independent due diligence for SG right now. There’s a lot of work with SG and other funders currently to try to secure the full funding package – we hope to report on that soon.

Question – current estimate on timing? Current application refers to May 2023 as construction start – has to be linked to closed season for hotels’ works.

Iona Broadband Committee

Scotland R-100

The laying of the R100 subsea fibre cables is now under way. The cable laying operations are being undertaken by Global Marine, on behalf of BT Openreach, and the work began in Shetland at the beginning of June.

Operations are scheduled to progress from Shetland to Orkney, via Fair Isle, then down the West coast, with the Iona cable expected to be laid during the last week in June.

The delivery schedule for our R100 fibre network, on the Ross of Mull and Iona, remains the first half of 2023.

Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme (SBVS)

The application window for the £400 SBVS interim voucher is now closed.

The larger £5,000 SBVS voucher is still available and is being offered to five of the newer premises on Iona, which are not covered under the main R100 contract. That £5,000 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 FTTP network is built, as Openreach may ask to claim the voucher for connecting those premises to the new network.

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

4G Fionnphort Site

EE’s plans to upgrade their 4G service, from the Fionnphort site, to 1800Mhz (Band 3) and connect to a fibre backhaul, are currently scheduled to be complete by the end of March 2023.

Telefonica O2 have recently submitted plans to upgrade their existing 2G service, from the site, to 4G, which will also use a fibre backhaul.

At present, Telefonica O2 have not provided a schedule for their work, but it is expected to be complete around the same time as EE’s upgrade.

Question – could the Fionnphort 4G be switched off until it is fully upgraded. This would allow connection to the other masts. Before Fionnphort was switched on it was possible to achieve a download speed of 60Mbps.

EE provide for emergency services and the Fionnphort mast covers a blackspot and is part of their contract. Suggestion that people phone their provider and say reception is poor and get their monthly fee refunded.

Gordon’s answer sent after the meeting:

Short Answer – No. That would leave many in the area without a 4G service.

Longer Answer – As a by-product of the Emergency Services Network contract, both the Acharonich (Ulva Ferry) and Fionnphort masts have been providing a basic EE 4G mobile phone service, on Band 20 (800Mhz), since 2017-18.

The east side of Iona receives a service from both masts, however, for those living in Fionnphort, Creich, Fidden, Knockvologan, Erraid, and the central western part of Iona, the only 4G service available to them comes from the Fionnphort mast.

In late 2020 the Acharonich mast was upgraded and began providing a 4G service on Band 3 (1800Mhz), with data download speeds of up to 60Mbps. This service covers the same area, on Iona, as the Band 20 service from Acharonich. It is not available to those areas, mentioned above, that are still only covered by the Fionnphort mast.

Which mast a mobile device connects to is a network wide issue, not just specific to Iona. Mobile phones are designed to automatically connect to different masts as and when required, usually the one that they are receiving the strongest signal from, even if that mast is not providing the fastest service. There is no way for the user to control which mast their mobile phone connects to.

However, in certain circumstances, similar to the situation we have on Iona, mobile routers, used to provide a 4G home broadband service, can be assisted to ensure that they only connect to a Band 3 service from Acharonich, Coll or Colonsay, and do not latch on to the much stronger, but slower, Band 20 signal from Fionnphort.

There are three methods which can be used to achieve this, either singly, or, in combination -

  • Use a 4G router that can be set to use Band 3 only.
  • Use a SIM card that is unable to access EE’s Band 20.
  • Use a directional outside antenna.

Those three methods have been described in more detail in previous Broadband Committee updates and on the local Facebook group. However, if anyone requires further information about them, contact myself, or ICC.

Gordon MacCormick (Secretary)

Iona Community Council Broadband Committee

NTS

Clea Warner (General Manager - Highlands and Islands) and Will Boyd-Wallis (Operations Manager North West) are visiting Iona for a couple of days early July and would like to offer an opportunity for anyone to raise any issues with them in person, but in particular related to the future of Maol and how we can maximise community and environmental benefits.  Current situation is that the Prentices still have the tenancy until end of December this year, except for the house which is now let to the St Columba Hotel as staff accommodation for this season, and the cottage renovations which we hope MICT will help to progress, so we are planning ahead for 2023 onwards.  Clea and Will plan to be at the NTS Shelter from 4-6pm on Thursday 7th July if anyone would like to pop in for a chat. 

Maintenance: in the continued absence of Thistle Camp workparties, Stewart Jardine is working on some bridge, gateway and fence repairs for us and the NTS footpath repair team will be on Iona in mid-August.

Staffa - Rachel Bonnici is our seasonal ranger in post until September.  We are about to appoint the main contractor for infrastructure works and a separate contractor for footpath repairs, so still on track to close the island to visitors from 15th August.  Anyone requiring more information can email staffaimprovements@nts.org.uk or give me a call.

Question – any plan for communicaiton to visitors? Staffa Tours trips will continue but no landing so shorter. Puffins as will be gone. Possibly a shorter season. Websites will reflect what is on offer. Important to emphasise not closed now and have accurate info so positive messaging out there. Is island closed?  How will that be managed? Once construction will be risks to be managed. Rumours not helpful. Logistical difficulties to overcome. Is 15 August realistic? Cautious around messaging.

Emily’s answer received after the meeting - The 15th August is a certain date.  Boat operators all had information packs sent in April (it seems Pal may not have passed the full information on to his skippers, so I have now sent Finlay and Glen a copy directly just in case).  So far only Turus Mara has put the information on their own website.

The project team has chosen a contractor and this just needs sign-off from a senior NTS committee before it's made public, hopefully that'll be done by next week and you'll see comms increasing over the summer including prominently on NTS website and Staffa twitter to get the word out to more casual visitors too.  

The story featured in the Oban Times on 5th May and in several national newspapers around that time as well.

At the moment there is a story on the website reached from the bottom of the main visit page: https://www.nts.org.uk/stories/staffa-improvements-timings-confirmed

Quite a few senior NTS staff are visiting over the next few weeks to make sure everyone is fully briefed about positive and consistent messaging.

Hope that helps for now.  I have been promoting the staffaimprovements@nts.org.uk email around the place regularly at ICC, in Round and About etc as well as online but haven't had any questions that way.

Iona Community

Abbey filling up more like normal and full to end October. Church and shop busy. Lack of staff – no shows, visa, ferries a factor as set arrivals and departures. Shop toilets open, concert for refugees in church in July and first ceilidh last night. Will be Wednesday in future for Camas open to all.

Health Update

The Patient Participation Group has ceased for the time being. It is clear that Lorn Medical Practice neither wants or feels it needs a PPG and we can't have any utility as a voice for our community unless we are heard. Jam Such Picard tried repeatedly over 6 months on behalf of the PPG to arrange a meeting with surgery staff to discuss the issues raised to us by our communities (inc both positive and negative feedback) but nothing came of it except a very non committal, non specific email from Mairi Dunning informing us she was retiring and that the surgery was running well. The Surgery wants patient feedback directly from individuals and clearly doesn't see the benefit of a community voice. Members of The PPG feel there is value in such a voice but we are unable to proceed as a group the way things stand.

I attended a virtual meeting of the Islands Living Well Network on 4th May. It was a good introduction (thanks to Rob MacM for putting me in touch) and I am now receiving regular emails from the coordinator Carol Flett on a wide range of health and wellbeing events and initiatives, some current ones included below.  There is a lot of information being shared and it would be great to make it accessible to everyone. What is the best way for me to share relevant information? A health and wellbeing notice board in the hall (happy to take this on if folks think it would be useful) or via Facebook? Any suggestions are welcome. In the meantime here is some info that may be of use....

Chronic Pain week 2022 happening from 20th - 24th June (mostly virtual) programme attached.

Argyll and Bute HSCP have a new strategic plan for 2022-25 the full plan is available on NHS Highland website. I've attached the graphic overview they produced.

The new NHS inform website has a new mental health initiative called Mind to Mind. Its a website where people who have challenges with their mental wellbeing share their experiences to help others nhsinform.scot/mindtomind;

Water Safety Scotland have launched free educational resources www.watersafetyscotland.org.uk;

There is a new LGBT telefriending service for adults aged 50 and over in Scotland aimed at reducing isolation and providing support. People can self refer via lgbthealth.org.uk or by calling 03001232523.

Online suicide prevention training is available free to those living and working in A&B. Apply online at nhsh.chooselife@nhs.scot; livingworks will release a license to enable the training which must be completed by 9th August 22.

Self isolation support grants are still available at reduced rates for those on low incomes Self-Isolation Support Grant - mygov.scot;

Liveargyll in partnership with Macmillan are offering Online Gentle Movement classes allowing participants to take part in the comfort of their own home.  These classes are based on QiQong, an ancient Chinese practice aligning breathing, physical activity, mental and spiritual awareness and are delivered by volunteers and are free of charge. Classes are available to anyone living with a long term health condition.  Please find links to the Liveargyll website here https://liveargyll.co.uk/move-together/ for more information.

Mull Health Facebook page and mullhealth.com continue to have the latest information on vaccination clinics and available support.

In other news, I'm sorry I haven't managed to get anywhere yet with the state of Iona's surgery, I will keep trying. Raised to WH that this was another key operational issue.

MICT

Survey of housing needs for key workers undertaken

Updates and Information:

Vehicle Permits

We had some problems early this season, which generated a lot of work.

So, we are reiterating the Mailchimp message  sent out in April.

We really need everyone to play their part, given – as experience over recent years has proven – control of vehicles is crucial to Iona’s sustainability, and the situation can very quickly get out of control. As we move further into the season, we’re asking everyone please to do everything you can to respect – and ensure respect for – the Iona Vehicle Permit policy.

Please be aware of and help to ensure everyone respects the following: 
The only people permitted to drive on Iona’s road are: 

IONA RESIDENTS – an Iona resident is defined as someone who lives on Iona at least eight months of every year. Required evidence: the driver is on Iona's voters’ roll; and the vehicle is registered to the Iona address. 

BLUE BADGE HOLDERS – the vehicle may be driven only when the Blue Badge Holder is in the vehicle. 

plus VEHICLES REQUIRED FOR WORK PURPOSES – as specified in the traffic order: commercial, local authority etc.

SECOND HOME OWNERS are permitted to drive only between the jetty and the house on arrival and departure. 
The Iona Road Traffic Order can be viewed online via the Argyll and Bute website. The Council continue to be cooperative in working with us to ensure that the order is fully implemented.

Scottish Islands Passport

App developed to promote visits to islands. We have the opportunity to provide content. Send text to Jane. Currently based on Welcome to Iona.

Local Development Plan

Find on A&BC website by searching for Local development plan 2. Submitted to Scottish Government for examination with result in January 2023. Mark and Emily worked on a response previously.

Defibrillators

Jann Simpson is fundraising and we have increased provision with one being given to the hall using donations from George MacRae and the Ladies Christmas card delivery. Ongoing costs for batteries and pads. Seeking solution for North End offer.

AOB

Digital Hub – A&BC pursuing funding for driven communities to install IT equipment in village halls. This would facilitate hybrid meetings.

Jubilee dance – thanks from Finlay for support. Raised £700 to be split between UNICEF and Street Soccer Scotland, causes supported by Malcom Robertson who is a great supported of Iona. Note that card payment option to be explored. Thanks too to Argyll who donated their fee.

Next Meeting: week beginning 5 September. Date TBC