Iona Community Council
Minutes of the quarterly meeting held online via Zoom on Thursday 10 December 2020 at 8.00pm
Present: Shiona Ruhemann (convening), Toben Lewis (minutes), Mark Jardine, Jane Martin, Dot Stewart, 7 guests, 33 members of the public
Apologies: Rob MacMananaway
Visitors: Dr Erik Jespersen and Dr Ruth McLean, Lorn Medical Practice; Jon Lloyd, Chair of Ross of Mull and Iona Patient Participation Group; Joe Reade, Mull and Iona Ferry Committee; John Holliday, Tiree Community Council; Emily Wilkins, NTS; Morven Gibson, SWMID
Minutes of the previous meeting: signed off without further amendments
Shiona Ruhemann, read on behalf of Jane Martin due to Zoom technical glitch—
As well as the topics you’ll hear about tonight, ICC has been involved in a range of issues, queries and developments over the three months since our last meeting.
COVID has featured heavily with a lot of work on a pathway for the school hostel to agree what happens if a child has symptoms while at high school and, for everyone, how to access a test on Iona. The test process has just been confirmed and the detail will be shared via Mailchimp but the key point is that someone with symptoms should call Bunessan Surgery and they will arrange for a test to be placed in a box in the bunker by the public toilets. This won’t be instant so leave perhaps an hour. Alert the surgery when the test has been used and placed in the second box in the bunker and they will arrange for it to be collected. Over the weekend a test will be left in the box and anyone using it should call the surgery on the Monday. There is sanitiser at the toilets and one in the bunker too.
We have fed into discussions on timetabling and travel, reported on pierworks and associated concerns, worked with IVHCT on community recovery, run a survey on a catering proposal (you still have a day to complete this), fostered new and established relationships, dealt with a variety of enquiries including an on island race and a person wishing to buy marble. There’s certainly variety!
Cooption to ICC: Jane’s offer at the last meeting to join us via the recent election did not result in any nominations but we’re glad to say that Katy Russon has stepped forward to join as a co-opted member. As per procedure this was circulated to the six ICC members in advance of this meeting and tonight Jane proposed Katy as a co-opted member. Shiona Ruhemann seconded. ICC voted in support. Katy is therefore co-opted to ICC. Jane will complete the paperwork and alert A&B Council. We now have seven members and two are co-opted, which is the maximum permitted, but there will be further opportunities to join at the next election – so think it over. Welcome Katy!
Joe Reade, Mull and Iona Ferry Committee
Joe Reade —
Gave a quick summary of the current MIFC work to convince the government and CMAL to buy a catamaran that is currently on the market and would solve some of the issues currently experienced on the Oban-Craignure run. Talked through wide range of evidence (with further details in Webinar) of multiple benefits of catamarans including in terms of costs, reliability, environmental benefits etc. Government has a policy to buy second hand vessels when they are available. PDF and webinar found here (https://mullandionaferrycommittee.org/future-ferries-for-mull/) had been provided to community prior to the meeting.
Boat is being built in Indonesia by Australian company. Had to get the seller in touch with CMAL, and they have now been discussing technical details and whether vessel will meet British safety standards. There is not an easy answer to this as it’s quite a complex piece of work. Hopefully if it is deemed these could be met then a commercial deal may be in discussion.
Bénédicte Scholefield: What is the nearest equivalent you have found using this kind of vessel? JR: Pentland Ferries to Orkney, they are on their second catamaran and they have been running it very successfully. The Pentalina (the first one) is very similar design to this ferry under consideration. Sale would be around £14–15 million for the vessel with the required modifications. BS: What would be the main obstacle to not getting this ferry? JR: The first hurdle is the technical aspect. The seller is confident but only the MCA can say if the vessel would be appropriate. It would then need to meet CalMac’s requirements, which would mean adding more ramps at both ends, crew cabins, changing life saving equipment, and so on. And then it would need a political decision to spend the money.
Shiona Ruhemann: Felt the webinar made a very compelling case, worried about the disincentives for the officials. JR: Agree this is outwith the norm of current and historical ferries so there may be concern, and there may be reticence to do something new. But we will do the best we can to make the political case. SR: What stage are you at with official and ministerial buy in? JR: Assessment is down to CMAL and government is fairly hands off. Government and minister have been reassuring that they will look at it positively and fairly. But likelihood of success is slim.
Dean Snell: What is the lifespan of the ship compared to a brand new one? JR: This is a new vessel, it’s only on the market because the purchaser exercised a right to delay. Possibly because of coronavirus. Even if it was only in the fleet for a few years, though, it’s still half the price of the Finlaggan for example, so is value for money.
SR, shared on behalf of Angus and Alison Johnston: Our thanks to Finlay for all of his hard work in representing Iona on MIFC. We very much support the proposal made by MIFC for purchase of a catamaran type ferry for the Oban – Mull run. We hope that this could have two possible effects 1. If implemented giving us a greatly improved service, with we assume two ferries operating, giving an hourly service in the summer. 2. Even if not implemented, the proposal will hopefully stimulate broader thinking by the authorities to produce a more efficient and reliable service across the fleet. JR: Even if we are unsuccessful this time, it demonstrates the concept of what is possible. Twin vessels like this would enable an hourly service back and forth and would be environmentally much better.
Jenny McLellan: Catamaran looks excellent, so what can we do to make the chances less slim? JR: If you agree, we are asking for individual and/or Community Council endorsement. JM: Can I propose that ICC back this as much as possible then?
SR: Asked meeting for support or dissent. Support given. Thanked Joe and MIFC for all the work they have done and continue to do.
Drs Erik Jespersen and Ruth McLean, Lorn Medical Practice
A robust and lengthy discussion was held.
Nine different members of the community spoke at various points throughout and posed questions, covering topics of concern such as the ongoing infrequency, irregularity and unpredictability of surgeries on Iona, the process for getting appointments on Iona, the length of time until an appointment, communication problems leading to a breakdown of trust, requests for regular and reliable surgeries held on the island, for continuity and communication between locums, recognition of the cost (both financial and in terms of time commitment) for those on Iona to travel to Bunessan surgery, issues with prescriptions being delivered (or not) to Iona. An anonymous case was shared with the meeting, at the request of the person involved, as an example of issues being caused by the lack of surgeries on Iona and problems with communication. Contributors stressed that the impact of COVID on how the surgery and triage process has had to change has been understood from the outset, as well as the difficulty for LMP coming in as the new practice managers in parallel with a global pandemic. At the last meeting, given that the surgery needs to respond to reduced demand in the COVID context, ICC (SR) had asked that if there was a single triaged case on Iona for which need for a clinical appointment was confirmed (e.g. by Weds COB), then the Iona surgery should go ahead on the next Thursday, including if that was on the following day. Dr Jespersen had suggested a single case was not sufficient, but two or three cases would suffice for an Iona surgery to run. This system is still not operating. LMP had also confirmed that the direction of travel is to get back to not only regular but weekly Iona surgeries. There has been ongoing email communication between ICC and LMP between meetings to try to resolve all of these issues.
Drs Jespersen and McLean responded to each concern and question. They expressed their own concerns that people may be delaying their healthcare and urged residents to make appointments as needed. They also recognised that there have been difficulties with bloods and other routine procedures as the community nurse had been off for an extended period of time. She is now back at work and they hope that these are now back on track. When asked how often the other surgeries are open for clinical appointments – in comparison to very irregular and infrequent opening of the Iona surgery – Dr Jespersen confirmed they are open five days a week.
When asked about vaccination, Dr Jespersen advised that Pfizer storage issues mean Astra Zeneca is much more likely to be deployed on these islands.
Drs Jespersen and McLean have made the following commitments:
- to move Iona surgeries to being held every fortnight, i.e., every two weeks – Dr McLean recommended that a fixed fortnightly surgery is easier in planning and logistical terms for the Bunessan surgery to run than responding to demand; SR welcomed the clarity and stressed we will monitor this in relation to the view that confirmed need for an Iona appointment merits the surgery opening on the next available Thursday
- to work towards the re-instatement of weekly Iona surgeries
- to discuss within their practice the best way forward for dealing with appointments cancelled due to inclement weather, but agreed a replacement surgery on Iona would definitely have to be sooner than the next scheduled one in a fortnight
- to investigate prescription delivery issues and the potential for working with the community transport to solve this
- that bloods will continue to be taken by the community nurse and will also be taken by the GP during the fortnightly surgeries
- to maintain an open dialogue
Dr Jespersen encouraged people to speak to him directly if they have complaints or concerns. Jon Lloyd, from the Patient Participation Group, also encouraged people to speak to Mairi Dunnings, the practice manager in Oban if needed. Dr McLean also encouraged people to request a phone appointment with the GP if they are concerned about length of time before they can be seen. Both doctors encouraged everyone to make appointments rather than delay accessing healthcare, as this can exacerbate health issues in the long run.
The current process to make an appointment is to call the Bunessan Surgery and speak to the receptionist. You will receive a call back from the GP who will triage you by phone. If a face to face appointment is required and is non-urgent you will be given an appointment at the next Iona surgery. If it is more urgent and you are able to get across you will be asked to come to Bunessan. Please call first, do not drop into the surgeries.
Reports and updates
Iona Village Hall Community Trust
Anja Jardine —
Incredible progress over the last three months. Beautiful stone wall, heat exchangers are in place, septic tank has gone in and landscaping has started. Underfloor heating is working so the building is starting to work out. The tapers and electricians are at work. The first toilet is in place. It’s feeling like a warm, real building. Builders will be on site until just before Christmas. On course to finish by end of January.
During most recent online site meeting, were very impressed by how well all the different people and companies are working so well as a team. Very happy to be part of this.
Made good progress in filling the COVID financial hole. Still need £42,000 for everything, can knock this down to £8,000 if some things are left out for now and fundraised for at a later date.
Calendars are selling well, thank you to everyone who is purchasing and who contributed.
Have another £5,000 from Russell Trust, for which we are very grateful.
Thank you to Finlay, Neil McInnes, Neil Jardine, and Graham for building the creel tree.
The school children will hopefully visit next week.
Thank you to everyone who volunteered for training, this should happen in January. Joanne will be in touch.
Fiona and Rebecca are working on the booking system and policies for the new hall.
Community consultations were sent out last week, both hard copies and online. Thank you to everyone who has submitted. This will be collated over the next few days. There is still a chance to feed in, so please leave your comments if you haven’t yet. Consensus so far seems very positive, and numerous comments about vaccine. There’s a sense that the mood is more positive and hopeful than it might have been if the consultation had happened before the encouraging vaccine developments. IVHCT will put together an anonymised report for ICC and themselves and will share findings locally.
Shiona Ruhemann —
Very difficult time with COVID, full £3.3 million funding package was in place and ready to go in March, and then put on pause due to pandemic. We did a lot of work through lockdown to address the COVID challenges; the final barrier to proceeding was updating of capital costs. Unfortunately, COVID market impacts have massively increased the costs of the loan funded aspects of the project – specifically and disproportionately, the components (particularly drilling and heat pumps) that have to be loan funded and cannot be public sector grant funded, otherwise we would be ineligible for Renewable Heat Incentive, which is crucial for the project. The scale of the funding gap created is huge, £450K. We’ve worked very hard to try to close this gap from NON-public sector funding – have received a lot of validation and support, but unsurprisingly not managed to secure this amount so far. The good news is we have the original funding still in place and very high level government support. They are very committed to delivering a low carbon heat solution for Iona. Now discussing what technical team will be coming in to help us move forward. Also receiving advice from multiple sources that COVID will inevitably end and Renewable Heat Incentive will be replaced, so the Heat Network should remain on the table as the preferred option.
IR AGM is next Tuesday at 19.30 and link will be circulated for that.
Mull and Iona Ferry Committee
Joe Reade —
Council will shortly publish their business case for the pier renewal, should be before Christmas. In February or early March one of the hydraulic rams need to be replaced which means there will be no vehicle service for 2–4 days.
Finlay MacDonald —
Not a lot to report on Fionnphort to Iona run. We are seeing effects of the operating envelope changing slightly, and not getting ferries on some days when we may have previously expected them to run.
Sound of Iona Harbours Committee
Finlay MacDonald —
Quite a significant response to the planning for the breakwater. It has been a disappointing process, where much of the local information seems to have been ignored. But the complaints have been lodged and are being heeded and the Council is now discussing with CalMac what height of breakwater would actually be required. Hopefully the Iona side will be sorted because of this. Davie and Alistair were out the other day putting out floats where the breakwater would potentially go, very good to see the actual protected size and the space that would be given within. Council have also acknowledged it would be helpful to have photo montages done and hopefully they will do so. Some have been done on the Iona side already by Richard Erdal. Vast majority of comments from Iona were supportive of the concept, but not the height. There is a sedimentation issue that needs to be resolved and this will be checked again this spring after which a decision will be made. Tunnels through the breakwater would help with this and that has been put to them (again) as a suggestion.
There have been quite a lot of complaints on the Fionnphort side. Photo montages and environmental impact assessment may help there as well.
Mark Jardine –
Sedimentation survey was done pre-winter and the second one should be done by April, to compare and do an over-winter analysis. They won’t finalise measures until they have these figures. Iona design will be held back by this. We had a meeting with design team and Marine Operations Manager and most of the things that have been discussed are now either in hand or being addressed. The best we can do now is wait and see.
Finlay MacDonald –
Council is being responsive and offered monthly meetings. Comment is still being accepted. Remember people are working from home right now so please be patient if your comment does not appear very quickly.
Morven Gibson –
We’ve also requested that Stewart Clark provide an update on what each stage entails and where the communities will be able to feed in. This will be shared.
Finlay MacDonald –
CalMac is involved in 19 different pier projects and Fionnphort is #1 priority and Iona is #4 priority, and remains the #1 priority for the Council.
SR: Asked about timing. FM: Potentially we may start seeing some work this summer, but it is about 2 months behind schedule. May not be able to work on piling April–November because of marine noise affecting the wildlife. SR: Is that on both sides? FM: I think they will try to finish Fionnphort in its entirety before starting on Iona. Timetable currently has finish there in 2022, and 2023 on Iona. Has not gone to tender yet, though, and slippage has historically occurred then.
Iona Broadband Committee
Gordon MacCormick —
Scotland R-100 – Reaching 100%
The delivery contract for the North Lot, has still not been signed with BT Openreach. Part of the reason given for the delay has been the need to re-assess the intervention areas, to take account of the broadband rollout that has taken place, since the tender documents were drawn up.
However, the Scottish Government is under pressure to have the contract signed before the 31st of December, when an agreement on the rules, surrounding state funding for the R100 Project, is due to expire.
Fibre Cable Spine
A fibre cable has been laid from the east side of Mull down through Glen More and the Ross of Mull, to Fionnphort. This fibre spine has its own connection, via a subsea cable, back to the main fibre network in Oban.
While much of the work on the fibre spine has been completed, there is one section, in the Pennyghael area, that’s been delayed by wayleave issues and another section, between Ardfenaig and Fionnphort, that’s been delayed by blocked ducting.
The cable that has been laid contains 36 fibres. Each fibre can be split to provide 32 broadband connections. So, it has the capacity to handle connections to over 1,150 premises. The total number of premises in the South of Mull and Iona, R-100 intervention area, is just over 700.
RGCP Bid – Rural Gigabit Connectivity Programme.
Argyll & Bute Council had submitted a bid for funding under this programme, to connect Schools, Libraries, Health Centres and other Public Buildings, on the Ross of Mull and Iona, to a full fibre network.
At the time of the last report the Council had received an estimate from BT Openreach for the fibre work required. That estimate was well above the limit set by the RGC program.
Openreach have since submitted a new estimate, which is much lower, and allows for the fact that a fibre spine is now in place, down through the Ross of Mull, to Fionnphort. However, because there is not yet a fibre presence on Iona, the cost of connecting our school and public buildings is still too high, so, they are not included in the revised bid.
R-100 will bring a fibre presence on to Iona and, at that point, A&B Council will access funding to connect our Public Buildings.
The revised bid has been submitted and a decision is expected by the end of January 21.
Bendoran – Bunessan
WHP have now completed their build work on the site. Electricity meters were installed last week. A site survey will now be done to ensure that the site is ready for the operator. EE will then install their antennae, radio cabinets, and other equipment.
The latest estimate, from WHP, is that the mast should go live in Spring 21.
Bruach Mor – Fionnphort
A fibre cable has been laid to the Bruach Mor mast, at the request of EE. At present, the fibre is not connected to the mast but is coiled up and tied on the termination pole, adjacent to the site.
It is expected, although not yet confirmed, that once the mast is fibre enabled, EE will begin transmitting 4G on their 1800Mhz frequency – Band 3 (B3), alongside their 800Mhz frequency – Band 20 (B20).
Acharonich – Ulva Ferry
EE’s mast at Acharonich was recently fibre enabled and is now transmitting, their 4G service, on B3. B3 allows for fast data download speeds of up to 65Mbps, and upload speeds of around 20Mbps.
All premises on the East side of Iona, and West to the cross roads, have a direct line of sight to Acharonich, so they should be able to receive the signal.
To use the signal for home broadband, an LTE/4G Router, with a suitable SIM card, is required.
However, because the B20 signal from Fionnphort is much closer, it remains the strongest signal available, and routers (and mobile phones) will automatically lock on to it, rather than the B3 signal from Acharonich. So, the router requires assistance to ensure that it locks on to the B3 signal.
There are three methods of doing that, and they can be used singly, or, in combination.
- Use a router that allows the download band to be locked to B3 only.
- Use a Data Only, or PAYG, SIM card. Neither, of those SIM cards are permitted to access B20, so the router will be unable to connect to the Fionnphort signal.
- Connect an external directional antenna to the router and point it towards Acharonich. This will increase the strength of the Acharonich signal, relative to the Fionnphort one, and make it easier for the router to lock on to it.
The use of a directional antenna to discriminate between the two signals in this way, will work best, when used in premises located from the south end of the village, northwards.
National Trust for Scotland
Emily Wilkins —
Visitor Shelter still needs to firm up arrangements for caretaker, looking like it will be shared out so please get in touch if interested. RSPB has appointed an Argyll corncrake specialist, looking forward to working with her on numerous projects. Happy to help with any exercise or outdoor opportunities that are considered after the IVHCT survey.
Catriona Robertson —
In September, the Abbey opened briefly to our architects & the design team, but shortly after the last ICC meeting the tide turned on COVID and we weren’t able to welcome the guests who had booked to stay. Nor were we able to hold an open day as planned. With promising news of vaccines and the hope of the easing of COVID restrictions, we plan to be open to residential guests in time for Easter next year.
However, our morning services in the Abbey have continued, with households distanced from each other and all needing to wear face coverings. In addition to morning worship, there will be two Christmas services: at 11.30pm on Christmas Eve and an informal service at 10.30am on Christmas Day. There will also be a watchnight service on Hogmanay. We are working in partnership with the Parish Church and very grateful to Jenny Earl for lending us essential equipment and leading some of our Sunday services. Joyce Watson and Heinz & Margery Toller are also helping out, along with musicians Jerry Akehurst, Phil Ruhemann and Christine Nater – thank you!
Folk are contributing to an island zoom on Monday evening – Desert Island Carols – choosing a carol that’s significant to them, telling us a little bit about that, then we all sing the carol. And also drive-in carols down at the jetty – we can sing together if we’re in cars, or on our doorsteps – with speakers in the back of the Abbey van and all our favourite carols. We hope that will be on Saturday evening, 19th December, after the ferries have finished. We’ll put details on Iona Stuff so that everyone knows the details.
The Iona Community Shop remains open for a few hours each day and fresh bread and baking from Anja in the Abbey kitchen can be ordered and picked up from the shop on a Friday.
We are hoping to open the Abbey accommodation to guests in time for Easter 2021 on reduced capacity (due to COVID), and are planning accordingly. There is a lot of snagging underway, we are getting the premises ready for guests, and we are embarking on a recruitment process for resident staff and volunteers.
This planning is taking place amidst continuing uncertainty in a number of areas - including what the COVID regulations will be at the time of re-opening, whether our overseas guests will be allowed or feel confident to travel, and whether we will be able to have a suitable staff team - especially now that BREXIT imposes any applicant from overseas to apply for a visa.
Regarding the Macleod Centre, the planned pre-feasibility study had to be put on hold due to COVID, but work is starting again, with the aim of leading to a full feasibility study. This will involve wider consultation on the island.
All staff at the Iona Community, including those on Iona, are furloughed part-time until April, so we appreciate your patience if we take a little longer to respond to messages at the moment.
South West Mull and Iona Development
Morven Gibson —
Capital works and installation for seaweed farm funding application was successful. There is a small gap remaining, but working on that now. Working with HIE to solve working capital as well. Have architects working on development for Bendoran which will hopefully allow Jon Lloyd to start working quite quickly. The planning permissions should go in next week.
AGM is 25 January on Zoom, would be good to see a lot of you there.
Iona Business Forum
Dot Stewart —
No comments or updates have been raised.
Horse box proposal
Mark Jardine –
Was discussed at last meeting, there have been two follow ups since then. First was a meeting of the Business Forum, and the other was a survey sent out by Mailchimp. Findings from that and from the Business Forum will be fed back to Nicola. It’s not within the gift of ICC to make a final decision, it will be up to her in the light of the responses we have gathered to decide what she wants to do and how to proceed. She was very conscious of not wanting to tread on toes and had requested the islands views, which we are gathering.
Katy Russon –
IBF met with advance notice to the full forum though not all joined in. There was a good spread of different businesses and interests. There was a range of views from fully in favour to strong concern about the location and a feeling that 2020 has been very hard on existing businesses and they should perhaps have 2021 as a recovery period before a new business is introduced; but there was not a consensus on any of this. A letter has been drafted making it clear that there have been views on all sides and not speaking for any one business. If any business feels it does not adequately represent their views, the ICC survey is still open and can be fed into.
MJ: ALL views will be given to Nicola so there is no concern that anyone will not be represented.
Boundary changes for council wards
John Holliday –
The proposal is to break up Oban South and the Islands ward, and enable a two-councillor island ward containing Mull, Iona, Tiree, and Coll.
Shiona Ruhemann –
We understand this was partly in response to Islands Act. General feeling at a recent meeting with the commissioner was that the islands proposal was overall positive, though there are concerns with it. Including that travel between Mull and Coll and Tiree is problematic, and perception that Mull has the highest population so it could end up with two councillors from Mull.
John Holliday –
Not happy with present ward, like the idea of an islands grouping. Reality is that the two councillors would come from Mull, which will create issues with representation. Only seeing councillors once every 2 or 3 months in present system. Our community council is drowning in structural issues. Having an island councillor would help alleviate this and would create an island job. Came to the decision that need to lobby for their own councillor. Unlikely to get one given the population. Was promised a visit or meeting with the boundary commission, which they are now refusing.
SR: Are you asking for an additional councillor, or that one of the two from this proposed grouping is allocated to Coll and Tiree? JH: There are two councillors and we would be seeking one of them. Hadn’t considered asking for an additional one but that would help solve the drop in overall councillors in Argyll and Bute. Katy Russon: Think an island grouping is entirely sensible, and understands the concern from Coll and Tiree. Wouldn’t feel disenfranchised by only having one Mull based councillor. What would actually be sensible is a councillor for each island but that obviously isn’t going to happen. Mhairi Killin: Agree with all that has been said. We should be an island grouping, but perhaps three would indeed be the optimum, with one being Coll and Tiree, one Mulll, and one being shared. Mark Jardine: Agree. Need island councillors for island areas. If we are only permitted two, can live with one being Coll and Tiree. Even that councillor would have better understanding of issues for Mull and Iona than mainland councillors. It’s a move in the right direction. JH: This was the system from 1890-2007 so it’s well tested. SR: Islands Act is based on every island being different, so this would be a benefit to the whole grouping. Can’t say representatively right now that Iona population as a whole supports this, but the voices speaking now in this meeting certainly indicate that. JH: It’s a poverty of transport that is causing this, there used to be much greater links between these islands. Morven Gibson: Totally happy with the proposal and pointed out the ‘Mull’ based councillor could in fact be an Iona based councillor. Jenny McLellan: Agreed, wonder if the lower population on Coll and Tiree was going to pose a problem. JH: Absolutely. First priority for the boundary commission is that all wards are same size plus or minus 10%, for very good reason. But the Islands Bill does make allowances for peculiarities that islands throw up so a case could be made. We have a community mandate now and will do the best we can. Neil Bruce: The Council is moving to digital by default, which is an argument that could be used to the boundary commission in how an island can be represented. And I wonder if an Islands Community Impact Assessment need to be made?
Amenity Services survey
Shiona Ruhemann –
We have contacted Pippa Milne to state our concerns about how the survey and consultation was undertaken.
Neil Bruce –
New council leader, from Islay, has stated they need to review how they are undertaking consultation but we don’t know what this looks like. This survey and the transport survey do not offer status quo as an option. This is very concerning as there’s no clarity as to what you’re comparing against. Policy and Resources Committee met today to discuss budget, no word yet on what decisions or discussions outcomes were. They were to be looking at various proposals put forward by Council employees on cuts to decrease budget shortfall.
Islands Community Impact Assessments
Shiona Ruhemann –
These are required by the Islands Act, the guidance had been long delayed and is now out for consultation. It’s very worrying. Reinforces and even worsens the power imbalances that are currently in place, gives greater power to the relevant authorities, assumes all experts are off island. No recognition that the experts on island impacts may be on the islands themselves. Could give a veneer of legitimacy to decisions that could damage islands. Fed in heavily to consultation and not getting anywhere. Trying to get a meeting to no avail. Mike Russell has been very supportive.
Neil Bruce –
After 23 of December these will become legal requirements. Process seemed to be more about how to deal with an ICIA after the fact and not about how to involve a community in the process of the ICIA.
John Holliday –
Was very supportive of the Islands Bill and have become very disillusioned with how it’s being implemented. Would be keen to work with us on this.
Parliamentary parking charges petition
Shiona Ruhemann –
The Parliamentary Petitions Committee met on 12 November and there was strong and unanimous cross party support for our petition from the Committee. Islands Minister agreed with principle of the petition but said he couldn’t tell local authorities what to do — he was corrected by the MSPs that the Scottish Government is in fact able to do that where there is an issue of principle, and gave the example of ‘fixed links’ (i.e. bridges) where Scottish Government has ruled out tolls, and it would be consistent for them to do exactly the same with parking charges at island lifeline ferry ports.
Neil Bruce –
The review group recognised that while car parks are integral parts of island life line ferry services, whether charges should be imposed should be considered on a case by case basis. Council budget still discusses methodology on increasing car parking charges.
Shiona Ruhemann –
A lot of concern and very disappointed in the lack of strategy and vision and support coming from the part of Scottish Government that it should be coming from.