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?