Easdale stone skimming stand off: facts and – what exactly?

This affair becomes progressively more divorced from reason and today’s coverage in The Herald and on the BBC – television news and website – has , in its slack populism, aggravated an already difficult situation.

Both the newspaper and the TV station chose to go for a rabble rousing David and Goliath myth rather than stop and think. Respect? Not.

Even if the event is called off, Sunday will probably see a horde of first time skimmers/campaigners crossing to Easdale to express solidarity with the put upon against the big bad landowner.

The facts do not support this reading of the madness that is happening.

The landowner is correct to be concerned about the adequacy of the public liability insurance for the event as, if it were not, his holding company that is the formal owner of the island could be liable in the event of an accident.

Eilean Eisdeal – around 5 months after his enquiry – simply told his solicitors that the insurance was fine and ‘declined’ to prove this by showing the insurance certificate to the landowner because ‘it was not a public document’.

If an organisation that needed to use your land did not respond for 5 months to a  reasonable and necessary request for information about public liability insurance, would you accept an unsupported verbal assurance from that same source that all was well?

We cannot understand what possible disadvantage there could be in showing an adequate public liability insurance certificate to a landowner whose permission you need to use his land?

Why would you not do this?

Why would you not post a copy of it in the island’s famous red telephone box notice-board cum vegetable patch for all and sundry to see it?

In both the article in today’s Herald and BBC coverage, Eilean Eisdeal has heavily backgr0unded the insurance issue and presented the story as one of a rip-off landowner whose rapacious approaches are being stoutly resisted by a dauntless band of fun loving islanders.

The landowner is being casually pilloried as a result of apparently partial information provided to an unquestioning media.

The Herald quotes the Chair as saying that Eilean Eisdeal have been ‘in negotiations’ with the landowner who has ‘refused to budge’.

We then asked the landowner, Jonathan Feigenbaum, if there had been negotiations with Eilean Eisdeal. He replied: ‘There have not been any negotiations or counter offer from Keren Cafferty [Ed: Chair of Eilean Eisdeal] or anyone else from EE.’

The BBC website piece quoted the Chair as saying that, while they knew of the landowner’s open letter to islanders, saying that he was having, ‘with a heavy heart’ to withdraw permission for the event, they had not heard from him directly as a body, and that therefore the event would go ahead.

Mr Feigenbaum has now told us that: ‘My solicitors (Ed: named) wrote to Keren and her fellow Directors clearly stating that permission was refused and the reasons.’

Since this is easily demonstrable, it has to be accepted as fact.

He went on to say: ‘The solicitors letter made it also clear that if they proceed EE and the directors personally will be liable, especially those that benefit commercially from the event.’

We have checked out the legal position which makes the conduct of Eilean Eisdeal in the matter even more unintelligible.

If they go ahead and hold the event against the landowners express forbiddance, the Directors are indeed, as Mr Feigenbaum says, personally liable.

This matter seems to be one of those rare occasions where folk seem genuinely to be ‘taking leave of their senses’.

Eilean Eisdeal’s behaviour here is self-mutilating, absolutely beyond comprehension.

The reality is that if they go ahead and hold the event in these circumstances, they will have their day with an island swollen by even more stone skimmers than usual, all in Yah Boo mode; but they will also have their day in court on a matter where the law is unequivocal and they will wilfully have put themselves well beyond it.

For the record, we would not ourselves see the £1,000 the landowner asked for as a ‘nominal fee’ for permission for this event. The 10%-12% of revenue from the event that he quotes is the level of fee that many agents charge for representing well known clients.

But Mr Feigenbaum has nevertheless given an undertaking that the entire fee would be put to the good of the island and the islanders as an entirety. He cannot back away from that commitment and one assumes he would not wish to do so, since he offered the arrangement.

It is possible to see the suggested fee and its ultimate destination as something of a Robin Hood redistribution, since a substantial part of the island community are alienated from Eilean Eisdeal and the landowner must be aware of that,

The proposed application of the entire fee levied on the event to some practical use of benefit to all of the islanders, has much of this informal quixotic levelling about it.

What happens next? In the realm of unreason where this has gone, who knows?

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48 Responses to Easdale stone skimming stand off: facts and – what exactly?

  1. Hooray – an article, at last, that has provided some intelligent understanding of the issue.

    Please remember from a previous article, that Eilean Eisdeal directors have already been investigated by OSCR and advised to change their behaviour. Sadly, it seems, they never will.

    Many folk from the Easdale community have expressed a lack of confidence in them. The directors have refused to give information to islanders on many issues of the years. On the otherhand Mr Feigenbaum has always been willing to communicate with islanders and support their endeavours if he believes it is in the interest of everyone and the island.

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  2. Refusing to demonstrate a suitable insurance certificate for a charity event is extraordinary. The landowner is not only entirely within his rights in insisting on seeing the actual certificate of insurance but would be remiss in not asking to see such a certificate.

    This is what Endsleigh (insurers) say about charity functions being held at someone else’s premises (and that would include land):

    “8. Does a third sector organisation need to obtain Public Liability insurance for an event if it is being held at a third party premises that have their own insurance in place?
    Whilst the third party premises may have Public Liability insurance, this will only cover their organisations’ liability if injury or damage is sustained by a member of the public as a result of their negligence, such as injury to an attendee of an event because of a lack of building maintenance.

    As this policy will not extend to cover your event activities, then it is strongly recommended that you obtain your own insurance so that you are adequately protected. Most third party venues will often ask to see proof of your public liability insurance before an event takes place and we are happy to provide you with a confirmation of cover certificate to ensure your event can proceed without a hitch.”

    Note that the insurer expects the owners of the facility (or land) to ask to see the certificate and for the charity to provide proof of the insurance.

    As someone with responsibility for public events myself and ensuring they are properly insured I am puzzled as to why any charity would refuse to produce its certificate of insurance as this just reflects necessary good practise.

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  3. The charity has consistently refused to provide information on various issues over many years which has caused all sorts of problems on the island, one of which led to an investigation by HIE and resulted in evidence that rules were broken by the charity.

    Following an OSCR investigation the directors were also criticised about their behaviour and one of the recommendations was to

    “increase transparency and openness and improve engagement with the community.”

    The islanders fear that no changes will be made until the directors leave.

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  4. It now seems that the P&J have muscled in on the act. I do not think their actions will help to resolve the long term problems on Easdale Island.

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  5. An excellent and well balanced article.
    One has to question whether the directors of Eilean Eisdeal are fit and proper people to be running a charity. Indeed their chairwoman is also the proprieter of the island tea room and bar and stands to gain the most from this ‘event’. A clear case of a vested interest which has not been declared.
    I wonder what the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator will make of this fiasco.

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    • Yet again, someone will have to make a complaint about the charity to OSCR. It seems none of the recommendations made by OSCR following its previous investigation have been taken on board by the directors. They appear to believe that they are a law unto themselves and listen to no-one.

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      • I think that based on the understanding shown in the coverage of this fiasco and the truthful reporting of the facts then newsroom should complain to OSCR on behalf of the long suffering residents of Easdale Island.

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  6. This ploy is obviously one to try if you get pulled in for a traffic offence and are required to produce your papers. “Yes, I do have a driving licence. Yes, I am adequately insured. But I decline to show you the documents.” :-)
    In any case, I thought that charities weren’t allowed to engage in “commercial” ventures?

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  7. Melville claims that permission had been granted by the landowner (before the fiasco). Can newsroom confirm that there is evidence for this statement?

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    • We will enquire and report. [2,10 update below - Comment 14 - with landowner's response.]
      Legally, we do not believe that this would make any difference if it were the case.
      The issue would be whether Eilean Eisdeal has a formal agreement with the landowner to run the event on his land over a period of years including this one.
      If this were the case and permission was rescinded in a disagreement, Eilean Eisdeal might have a case against the landowner for recovery of expenditure incurred prior to withdrawal of permission,
      Burt neither side has made any mention of such an agreement so we doubt there is one.

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      • Makes no difference to the proprietor’s right to see a valid certificate of insurance nor on his right to withdraw permission if such a certificate is not produced.

        It is more complex in relation to the subject of a fee. Had the proprietor given permission for the event with no mention of a fee but introduced this late in the day then the charity could legitimately claim that a contract was in place with no obligation to pay for access (and if this is the case I would say that the landowner should withdraw this request for this year but make it clear that next year’s and subsequent events will have an agreed charge against them).

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      • In which case it could be argued that Melville has, once again, made a misleading statement.

        I am pleased that this recent fiasco has shown some of the poor conduct of Eielan Eisdeal directors and their lack of recognition of the importance of the OSCR recommendations. I also remember that you have asked for information from them and have not reported the results – one assumes it was not forthcoming.

        I have previously been lambasted for expressing my opinions about Melville’s candidacy in the council elections. This furore has only helped to re-enforce my views. Although he acts as a ‘Butlin’s Redcoat’ to entertain visitors at various events, as a director of EE what exactly has he done for the community or island?

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  8. We have had a response from the landowner, Mr Feigenbaum, on the issue of whether he had already given permission for the event before Eilean Eisdeal’s failure to produce a public liability insurance certificate led him to withdraw it.
    He says: ‘I have been the sole Director of Easdale Island Co Ltd for the last 5 years and I have never granted permission. It is possible in the distant past that my late Father was asked.If Mr Melville received official permission then that is easily proved by providing a letter or document to that effect.’

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    • Re Mr. Feigebaum’s comment on being sole Director of Easdale Island Co Ltd for the last 5 years; why has he not taken a stance against this before, if it such a great issue to him regarding public liability insurance, or is he just jumping on a band wagon put forward by disharmonious residents.

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  9. Please can we now have E Easdale resign. The majority do not want this organisation anymore. They have never done anything for the island, only made enemies. They all have an interest in money and do they tell us islanders where it goes….. Resign now.

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  10. War throughout the World, Supposed Climate Change, World Recession, etc….yet Argyll’s main concerns are Stone Skimming, and Helensburgh Dancers.
    No wonder we are considerd a backward rural area.

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  11. Steal a little and they throw you in Jail
    Steal a lot and they make you a King

    I think E.E. LTD is aiming for the latter.

    The residents are 100% behind the landlord in his defense of Easdale, and if war is on we are up and ready.

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  12. As usual, someone who has no experience of living on the island but sees fit to have a go at becoming involved in the issues. Another tourist who likes to have fun but has no appreciation of everyday challenges. I wonder if she ever stops to think why people choose to live there in the first place.

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      • it is a lovely place in spite of the bitchiness . you don’t need to get involved in any of it. just enjoy the peace and quiet , the spectacular scenery and the uniqueness of the place. You will find everyone relaxed and friendly

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        • Aha! Now we’re getting to the point! “…just enjoy the peace and quiet, the spectacular scenery and the uniqueness of the place.”

          That’s exactly why many choose to live there.

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        • How can you say we will find everyone relaxed and friendly? How many islanders have posted horror stories about life on there at the minute. I wouldn’t call those or the retorts by you condusive to a relaxed and friendly atmosphere….Nor do I think a business which doesn’t provide adequate insurance for a major event and is, at best, secretive about it’s financial affairs particurly relaxed.

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    • please don’t be arrogant and think you know anything about me.I am just as entitled to my views as you. I don’t challenge your credentials to pontificate about island issues. are you resident?

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      • No I don’t live there and as a result, unlike you,have not made any statements on how any of the residents of the island feel. I have simply asked questions and been horrified by the responses. I DO live FULL TIME just down the road and know a few islanders. On reading these discussions this week I have asked them more about life over there and I think I’m as well placed as you to take part in the discussion based on my (increasing) knowledge of the situation.

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  13. Well said Jill. You stick to your guns. This smacks of nothing more than an orchesrtated campaign against EE by some resident numpties.

    ps remember and tell them it’s ‘thumbs-down’ to this post ;)

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    • If EE was a little more inclusive there would be no discord, and if they deigned to reveal the accounts there would be no grounds for muckraking allegations. EE is the cause of the strife and only EE has the power to stop it.

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