Third parties ensure Easdale’s Stone Skimming Championships goes ahead

Today has seen the intervention of third parties who have in their different ways ensured that the 2012 Stone Skimming Champi0nships goes ahead on Sunday 23rd September.

First a local paper, the Press & Journal, offered £1,000 to pay the landlord the fee for the use of his land for the event.

Then, we understand, a friend of the event took on the responsibility of the public liability insurance certificate, which appears not to have existed until then.

By afternoon the landowner’s solicitor had seen an acceptable insurance certificate and had  notified him of this.

The Press & Journal is paying the £1,000 land use fee.

The landowner has already been in touch with some islanders asking for ideas on how best the £1,000 might be applied in the general interest of all  of the islanders.

Those who rightly enjoy this quite unique annual event may now enjoy it again – no doubt as part of an enhanced audience in crusading mode.

Sunday should be quite a party.

However, let us not forget that here is an island body:

  • sufficiently irresponsible not to have bothered to acquire a public liability insurance certificate in good time;
  • sufficiently legally ignorant as to defy the landowner’s proper need to have sight of that certificate since, were it inadequate or absent, he would personally be liable in the event of any mishap;
  • sufficiently estranged from truthfulness to give statements to the media which the landowner flatly rejects and can support – that they ‘were ‘in negotiations’ with him; that the landowner had made no direct contact with them to let them know he had refused permission for the event; that he had earlier given permission for the event before later withdrawing it;
  • sufficiently disoriented as to paint the entire episode as a David and Goliath epic in the interests of the people.

The events of today, while they have saved the event, have been misguided.

The real cost of the generosity of the respective benefactors is to send a message that community organisations can be highly irresponsible – the only adjective that fully fits what Eilean Eisdeal has done – and that white knights and newspapers will bail them out.

Just as the Scottish Government is trying to get communities to take on responsibility, here we have one, with an engaged member who is a current MSP,  giving a straight two fingers to the law, to the rights of others, to duty of care for the public, to the self-elected responsibilities they carry for the reputation of an island population.

Should all of this become cloaked in some sort of Braveheart pseudo-myth of Bella Caledonia offering fierce resistance to a brute absentee landowner – and even celebrated as such – it will be a dangerous folly.

And the Press & Journal’s headline-generating donation is something of a boomerang.

Eilean Eisdeal had refused to pay the landowner £1,000 for the use of the land for the event. Now that the P&J has just paid the £1,000 itself, that sets a precedent for a fair price for future years which Eilean Eisdeal can hardly now dismiss as unrealistic.

This is not an outcome for the wise to celebrate but the event is for the fun loving to enjoy to the point of total immersion – just not in the flooded quarry.

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87 Responses to Third parties ensure Easdale’s Stone Skimming Championships goes ahead

    • Would you care to identify what exactly is ‘misleading’?
      For Argyll is demonstrably independent.
      For the record, our publication archive [key in Easdale to the site search and wade through it] shows that we have been resolutely supportive of and enthusiastic about Easdale, Eilean Eisdeal and The Puffer Bar for a long time.
      But time and experience bring insights that are not uniformly positive.
      We have not found Eilean Eisdeal open or transparent, We are aware of how damaging to them this stance is, We have no idea why this is the case. We suggested to them some time ago that they should answer their critics by publishing their membership list, which they refuse to do. All of this, in its self-mutilation, has been a disappointment.
      And, while the OSCR investigation cleared them of wrongdoing, it had its uncomfortable equivocations.
      The current saga over the insurance for the 2012 stone skimming event defies reason and damages the credibility of Eilean Eisdeal as a serious and responsible organisation.
      We have had their best interests at heart for a long time but their secretive attitude and some of what they have demonstrably done – including this current excursion – has forced us to a more objective – not a hostile – position.

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      • Forargyll is an honest enterprise and like we all should, revisit events/facts and subsequently formulate new opinions if reaearch warrants same.

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  1. I can only say “thank you”. The residents have endured many years of this type of behaviour from Eilean Eisdeal but it has been very difficult to get the information across to the wider community.
    Your coverage of the whole episode, along with other articles, have exposed the directors for what they are – in my view, people unfit to hold office. OSCR should now re-investigate.

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  2. If Eilean Eisdeal did not have insurance cover for the event, why did Donald Melville, as a Director, claim they had in an interview with the BBC and as reported in other publications?

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    • If the landowner had not already given permission for the event before withdrawing it, why did Mr Melville claim that he had?
      If Eilean Eisdeal had not been in negotiations with the landowner over the event, why did their Chair claim they had?
      If the landowner had been in formal contact with Eilean Eisdeal and its directors, through his solicitors, informing them of his withdrawal of permission for the event, why did the Eilean Eisdeal Chair claim that they had had no direct formal notice of his intent so were proceeding?
      Truth has been a major casualty in this sorry and unnecessary mess.

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  3. Did they have cover for the 14 earlier events and if they claim so, can they prove it. If the landlord had not quite rightly expressed his concerns on the insurance cover in April and again in September would they have carried on with the event, knowing, as she did, that there was no relevant insurance. Disgraceful!

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  4. An excellent, objective and well balanced article which captures all of the salient points. Eilean Eisdeal have demonstrated clearly to everyone that they are not a responsible organisation and their directors are not fit and proper people to be in charge of a charity.

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  5. This article has exposed the Eilean Eisdeal directors for what they truly are. No wonder the Easdale Island community has disowned these antagonistic and deceitful people. They only represent their own vested financial interests and refuse to account both for their phantom membership and how they have spent the vast sums of money that they have a aquired over the years. They are truly disgraceful.

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  6. “Keren added that the group had been advised that they did not have to show Feigenbaum their insurance paperwork.”

    From the daily record. It does infer that the insurance was in place, which it was not untill Wed 19th Sept. Own petard hoist or something like that, at long last

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    • Nothing wrong with only putting the insurance in place near to the event – it is a quick process but I find it astonishing that they were advised they didn’t need to show proof of insurance to the landowner.

      There has to be something more going on here.

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      • Missing the point a wee bit Doc. In the record interview the suggestion was that the insurance was in place.( Tuesday 18th) It was NOT. That’s why it was put in place a day later (Wednesday 19th)

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        • Actually, both statements could be correct. It is normal for charities that organise events to have an annual insurance policy that covers up to a fixed number of events. This is what we have in the BCA plus a specific insurance policy for our fireworks party. I guess the stone skimming is the biggest event they organise so it would not be unusual for the renewal date of the policy to be close to the date of the event. Thus they could have insurance in place but which does not cover a future event as the policy renewal date is between “now” and the date of the event.

          This is of course entirely guesswork. If it transpires that previous events were run without insurance then that does suggest a degree of irresponsibility though not any wrong doing as events insurance is not legally compulsory.

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  7. “So apparently they are going to investigate a community buyout of the Island as a result of this” – and what exactly is wrong with such an investigation? If they did decide to proceed with a buyout it would save £1,000 per year on paying off the owner for the privilege of holding their skimming competition – an event that they have built up over the years from nothing.

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    • Eilean Easdale do not appear to represent the island and do not have a mandate from the community to ‘investigate’ a community buyout.

      I for one would be very unhappy if I thought any public money was going down this particular sluice. We have funded enough overseas wars recently.

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    • In answer to Simon, the last time Eilean Eisdeal bought land on the island, they:

      - refused to tell islanders what they were buying
      - broke the HIE funding rules by claiming to have made a community contribution. This was subsequently rejected following an investigation by the funder.
      - excluded an area in the middle of the purchased land so that one of the Directors, Mike Mackenzie, could get an option to purchase it
      - promised to renovate the harbour as a first priority – still no action
      Lastly, they did not build up the event from nothing – they took it over from the Island’s Resident’s Association who did create it.

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  8. I had intended taking the family to the stone skimming on Easdale Island but these people are not fit to run such an event, I think we will find something safer with people that can be trusted.

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  9. The only mandate that EE had from the islanders was to supervise the refurbishment of the hall which had been kindly donated to the islanders. This was the reason why EE were set up and for no other reason.
    This organisation now uses the Hall purely for their own benefit and it is normally kept locked so that the islanders can’t use it and so that tourists to the island cannot use the toilets.
    EE does not represent the Easdale Island community and has no mandate at all to make decisions on their behalf.

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  10. Surely investigating a community buyout is just seeing what the community wants to do.

    Any community buyout has to gain the support of the majority of that community. So if people who live in the island don’t support a community buyout through voting for it at the appropriate time it just won’t happen.

    Don’t know if holiday-home owners get a vote though …

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    • We’ve had this discussion before and Newsroom has previously asked EE, and as far as I’m aware is still waiting, for a breakdown of their membership.
      The discussion came after some of us complained that it was impossible for the island residents to have proper vote when the majority of EE membership are holiday-home owners. It is they (second home owners) who like to have fun, treat the island like a Butlins holiday camp and think EE are wonderful. It is they who have the majority vote as it is believed that they make up two thirds of the EE membership – the other third being some island residents. It also seems that less than half of all permanent residents are members – so about 20 adults.
      EE have previously claimed to have 90 – 100 members and as there are only approx. 45 adults on the island altogether, it’s probably not hard to work out who makes up the rest.
      I don’t believe there is any other community group in Argyll who operates in what appears to be an extremely arrogant way in order to achieve it objectives – but for EE it seems to be the only way it can get the support it needs to go against the wishes of the residents.
      As for any future land buy-out, and based on the above, of course the holiday home owners are all going to vote in favour; they want to have all the fun and carry-on. And as there are more than double the number of them compared to full time residents, guess which way the vote will go.

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  11. As far as I know a community buy out (or potential for it) only comes into effect when the land is actually up for sale. Therefore it is only an issue if the landowner chooses to sell his land which it would appear, on the face of it, is not going to be the case.

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  12. Integrity – is there not a ‘hostile’ community buyout (ie where the landowner doesn’t want to sell) going through the courts?

    Somewhere in Lewis/Harris?

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    • There is Simon,. It’s in the Western Isles, the Pairc Estate. Memory says the Scottish Government gave the go ahead for the buy out against the landlord’s wishes and with the threat of consequent legal action. This was back in the Spring sometime and we’ve taken our eyes of it with other matters so not sure if the legal action is in train or has happened.
      Buy out against the will of the owner – and licensed by government – raises tricky moral as well as political issues.

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    • I think the operative here is that it is a crofting estate. These have different rules for community buy outs than “normal” communities.

      I don’t think that under normal circumstances a community, other than a crofting community, can force a landowner to sell. They can ensure though that the land is sold to them when it does come on the market and for a price determined by an assessor.

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  13. You may be interested to know that the community land buy-out, previously undertaken by EE, resulted in an investigation by HIE which revealed – yes, you’ve guessed it – that some of the rules were broken and the funders didn’t have all the facts.

    What a surprise!

    Ultimately, it appeared that the community bought less land than originally intended, for more money after it had been revalued, and at the same time Mike Mackenzie, then a director, secured himself an option to purchase on a plot of land in the middle of it. Because of this the discount rule was discontinued by HIE for all future community land purchases.

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  14. Lowry – “It also seems that less than half of all permanent residents are members – so about 20 adults.”

    Therein, surely, lies the remedy you seek. I see many complaints on here that EE are secretive and unrepresentative of islanders’ wishes. But such an organisation cannot ignore the basic democratic requirements of its constitution. Normally these would include annual re-election of office bearers and provision for members to call an extraordinary meeting – at which a motion of no confidence in the board could be tabled, if that is what so many want.

    So if there are such a lot of islanders unhappy with the way their community company is being run by its present officers, why do they not do something about it? Join up and change the organisation from within, instead of the endless carping, whinging and backbiting we see on here.

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    • You forget – the holiday home owners significantly outnumber the residents, even if they all joined.

      Believe me, people have tried over the years to make changes but EE seem to have ensured that other folk, who may have differing views from their own, do not get elected. I understand that there are some tales to tell about dodgy elections.

      I also understand that EE have even changed the charity’s arts and mems. to ensure it is they who make any changes to it and not its members – but I will leave this to others to explain.

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      • Fair enough point Lowry, although I didn’t forget as such – I just didn’t know!

        All the same, if all the permanent residents made a point of joining the organisation and attending meetings, it would be much harder to ignore them, especially since (presumably) the part-timers are not in a position to attend all meetings?

        Are you saying that the conflict on the island is a straighforward clash between residents and holiday-home owners, or is it more complex than that?

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        • Tim – you need to live on Easdale Island to understand the ‘politics’ there. Eilean Eisdeal directors choose a policy of distancing themselves from anyone who might disagree with their proposals. This includes not responding when spoken to, vilification, spreading falsehoods in the hope that others might take similar stances. No wonder there has been such a huge turnover of islanders – more than 100 in the last ten years.
          Many islanders choose not to attend their meetings because of the treatment they often get when offering an alternative view. At one meeting, John Campbell QC was the mouthpiece for the Directors, and he was asked to stop harassing people who spoke up against EE proposals.
          Most meetings are held at weekends so that the number of part-timers are maximised.

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      • The dodgy dealings that come to mind include one property owner on the island trying to stand for election but having his papers refused, he then tried again at the next AGM where there were a huge amount of ‘postal votes’ and he not surprisingly didn’t get in. At the time this was questioned as there were many more votes cast than residents on the island, but EE refused to publish its membership list to show who all there members were. And then the next AGM was very poorly attended because different times were published for the event meaning that some members missed it. Democracy at work Easdale style!

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        • If I remember correctly, one of the present directors stood down before an election and all members were notified. Then, when a resident from ‘the other side’ submitted nomination papers, the resigning director changed their mind and withdrew the resignation. No election was held.

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  15. Oh yes – I forgot to add that the land has never been used (apart for the dumping builder’s waste) because the community objected to EE’s proposals for development on it and planners do not see it fit for such use either. A complete waste of public funds – in my view.

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  16. Getting a mandate from the Easdale Island ‘community’ is not one of Eilean Eisdeal’s strong suits. Normally, they just press ahead and then after months of secret negotiations, announce what is going to happen – calling it ‘consulting the community’.

    But wait. OSCR recommended in their last investigation of EE that they should:

    “Consider, when seeking the views of the local community in future, commissioning an independent organisation to survey and report back.”

    Maybe the £1000 they saved in not having to pay the landowner his fee could be used for this purpose.

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  17. Any vote should be given only to full-time residents.

    Any voting activity and further consultation should only be carried out by an independent consultant agreed by EE and the Residents’ Association (which EE directors have stated they do not recognise). Eilean Eisdeal directors have shown themselves to be unfit and irresponsible.

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  18. If the Eilean Eisdeal director’s have any shred of integrity then they should issue an unreserved apology to the various media that they have so blatantly deceived this week.

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  19. A quick look on the Company Check website has revealed Eilan Eisdeal’s net worth at £928,002 as of their last returned accounts with £23,103 cash at hand.

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    • What in the wide world of sports do they need all that money for? An island the size of a postage stamp, in need of some capital expenditure for the common good(the last time I visited the paths around the island were not suitable for the infirm and there has been regular mention of allotment or garden areas being renovated for use by the residents). Can EE explain why such a vast warchest has been accumulated while there are things requiring repair and maintenance? Perhaps they could hire a binman to take the rubbish away?

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      • £23k isn’t such a ‘vast’ warchest for an organisation that is responsible for the running & maintenance of a substantial building. Also it’s a single snapshot figure and as such doesn’t tell you much – cash flow in any business ebbs and flows on a daily basis.

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        • You’re right. It IS only a snapshot as it is the figure from their last accounting period (Sept 11) so is in no way current. The cash at hand can fluctuate as you say but the net worth of the company is less likely to and a net worth of that much shows a substantial business. It is unlikely to be worth substantially less since those accounts were submitted. The accounts also show a turnover of £54,560 for that year ending Sept 11 and a profit of minus £19,881.

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  20. Rather than speculate – it may be more important to ask EE exactly how the money is spent. Of course there are running costs associated with the hall and museum, from which they also gain a significant income, but there is widespread concern that a lot of money has been spent on solicitors’ fees (sometimes for action against residents), planning applications for proposals against the wishes of the residents (wind turbine, waste plant etc.) and architect fees and presentations for plans which appeared to only benefit directors (hostel, wind turbine).
    All this probably adds up to a tidy sum yet EE seem not to want to show a clear breakdown of their expenditure.

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    • It seems astonishing that a commercial company worth almost a million pounds does not have to account to anybody on how their money is obtained or spent. More significantly they do not have to explain who benefits from the monies that they spend. Their chairwoman has already been admonished in the past for not declaring her vested interests.

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      • I find it strange that OSCR do not make charity accounts available. They do provide a very high level summary but it is limited to income and expenditure totals in the year (I notice that EE were late submitting their annual return both in 2010 and 2011).
        Note that as they are a charity the public have the right to access copies of the their latest statement of accounts and their constitution under section 23 of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005.
        The request should be made to EE directly and if they fail to comply then this matter should be reported to OSCR.

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    • Lowry – that’s a fair comment – any community organisation should publish its accounts in full so there is proper transparency.
      On the point MrsMac raises about the high net worth, this presumably includes the value of the hall?

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      • This probably includes the Community Hall, the museum and the millstone around the islanders necks which is the harbour. The harbour is a grade B listed structure which is crumbling and is in dire need of repair. Repairing it would be very expensive and so it is ignored by EE.

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      • A lack of transparency was raised by OSCR as one of the criticisms of the charity. It seems that, with recent activity, both the chair and Melville continue to ignore the recommendation. Refusing to show an insurance certificate has got to be the ultimate in being opaque.

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  21. Tim – I think you are being very reasonable – which usually means that you’ll get short-shrift from the EE haters on here.

    ps do you think they all phone/text each other saying ‘I’ve just posted another article so go on-line an give it a thumbs-up’?

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  22. Newsroom, I notice you haven’t added to your myriad articles about Easdale, one that commends EE for putting on (from what I have read) a spectacularly successful, fun occasion for all involved. Why on earth not?

    Contributors to this website over the last week or so have made this event sound like the worst form of punishment. On an occasion when, for whatever reason, many more people than normal have taken an interest in Argyll, I’m sorry to have seen the contributors to these pages, on the whole, providing the worst kind of advert for this part of the world.

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  23. Are you wanting an article about how much fun the stone skimming event was for visitors? Surely that’s a forgone conclusion and inevitable – hardly newsworthy. There have already been other such articles on this website.

    Perhaps what may be of more interest to some, although obviously not for those who have no sympathy for residents, is what it was like for those living there to try to have a normal day. Could they go about their daily business without hinderance?

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    • Exactly the type of joyless comment I was referring to. I don’t remember any such article occurring about, for example, the Inveraray Highland Games. That was certain to be fun, yet managed to get a few column inches post event. Did people go on to lambast the George hotel for making money during that event, or wanting it to happen again?

      Are the residents of Easdale so sensitive to visitors from the outside that having a few hundred people visit the island once a year is such a problem? I very much doubt that.

      This is the precise behaviour that pushes people away from places like Argyll. To see it exist with such vitriol, over something as imminently likeable as a stone skimming competition, should sadden anyone who wants to see the rural communities we love grow and thrive.

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      • I can assure you that it was absolutely no kind of fun at all in Ellenabeich. The Seil Hall car park was full by mid-morning, with a queue of vehicles stretching back to Seaview. The police had to come down to sort it all out, turn cars back and supervise them turning around. Great if you just needed to pop up to the Stores to get milk and a newspaper. :-( :-(
        Then, with long, long queues of people on the slip waiting to go across, it was announced that registration had closed. There were some extremely p*ssed off people wandering around the village, complaining that they’d come a long way to take part. All this could have been avoided if the organisers had taken a responsible approach and taken on-line registrations in advance, and made sure they’d provided marshalls to direct all the traffic. But no. :-( :-(

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  24. One fact that has emerged from this fiasco which as an outsider I find very significant. Apparently not one resident of Easdale Island has spoken out in support of Eilean Eisdeal.

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    • Agreed.
      There doesnt seem to be any issue that the population can agree on. Entrenched positions all round with EE looking very much detached from those they surely exist to support. Mike Mackenzie oddly keeping his head down (why?).
      On the face of it EE need to open their doors and be more inclusive.

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  25. I’m not sure that inclusivity is the problem. EE invite all the community (residents and holiday home owners)to attend meetings, which they call ‘consultations’, but in fact are only held to tell the community what they’ve decided to do. The meetings come across as dictatorial events. If the community wants something difference to whatever the directors have decided, the folk are sneered at, jeered at and the suggestions ignored. For example, when the wind turbine plans were proposed many people said that they disagreed with the idea, but EE went ahead with the plans anyway. They then seemed to decide, or were advised, to move the original proposed turbine to another location, so withdrew the plans and resubmitted them – still against the wishes of the majority of islanders who had made their views known.

    However, the islanders weren’t against resolving the heating problems with the hall, far from it – they simply felt that the money should have been spent on insulating the building to prevent heat loss, as there is no insulation in the ceiling or walls (as I’m sure that those of you who have been in it can testify). Without doing so seemed to be a waste of money.

    It wasn’t only the residents that was against the wind turbine, it was also the planners, elected members and Scottish Government reporter who all decided against it too. No-one seems to be able to understand why EE directors appear to be so undemocratic. It’s as if they are determined to ignore the community in favour of projects that appear to benefit no-one but themsevles. I do hope the directors stand down soon and let others develop the charity into something that benefits all.

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  26. Lowry, you post a lot on here on this so let me ask you a simple question – do you presume to speak for the Easdale community? For the islanders?

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  27. In response to AB’s post. I have owned a holiday cottage on Easdale Island for more than 10 years, and my family has also lived on the island for long periods of time. I have never known of an island resident by the name of “Lowry”, and can only assume that this is a pseudonym. Whoever this person is, he/she is using the cover of anonymity to make vindictave amd malicious comments about other (named) island residents – those who are actually trying to make the island community vibrant and viable.
    This individual clearly has a massive slate chip on his/her shoulder, and as an island resident I can assure viewers of this website that “Lowry” represents an extremely minority opininion. Several people on this website have asked for the island’s residents views – I guess most of them have decided to rise above it and not get involved.
    Easdale is a beautiful island, which needs to move on with the times. What has “Lowry” done to assist with the island’s progress? (If indeed he/she is a resident). I ask “Lowry” to reveal his/her true identity, so that we can all move forward in the light of honesty, transarency and integrity,rather than this continuous flow of malicious and poisonous comment which only serves to portray us as an island of conflict – which is far from the case, in reality.

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    • I guess the real reason we have not heard any support for EE from the residents is that it would be nigh impossible for them to justify the blatant deceipt by EE as described in this article.
      Indeed as you say Easdale Island needs to move with the times and that includes ditching an antagonistic, anti-social, dictatorial organisaton and embracing democracy. The days of dictatorships are past; the community as a whole should decide what they want and not just a handful of people with vested interests.

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    • I have no idea if Lowry is resident on Easdale but I do think that full time residents should have more of a say than those who only holiday there, whether they own the property or not. And Lowry is not alone in his comments. The situation on Easdale is well known in the wider community. What justification do you have for EE’s recent behaviour regarding the insurance certificate and all the issues surrounding their lack of transparency?

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  28. Given Mr. Melville’s comments in the Herald today(24th), I hope that EE will take a more concilliatory and inclusive approach to community buy-out and ownership, otherwise such a move is likely to be scuppered before it starts by yet more internicine squabbling. That of course is assuming the residents association doesn’t bid for ownership instead.

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  29. Simon, I speak on behalf of all those people who think that the actions of the EE directors, as described in this article, are truly disgraceful. In my opinion these are not fit and proper people to be the directors of a registered charity.

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  30. OK Maurice thanks. I am genuinely interested so tell me, are you all in some organisation where you were elected as spokesperson?

    Or are you a self-appointed spokesperson?

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  31. No, I am not an elected spokesman in the same way that Mike MacKenzie is not an elected MSP, however my family members are quite content that I express their views. Maybe in your opinion this in some way devalues my comments. Where do you stand regarding the actions of the EE directors as described in this article, do you think their behaviour was acceptable?

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  32. I think that perhaps it’s worth reminding folk that as less than half the resident islanders are members of Eilean Eisdeal, the directors cannot claim to represent the community either.

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  33. There are probably some folk who don’t live on the island but are on the electoral roll and others who may live there but choose not to be on the roll available to the public, so there is a bit of uncertainty. Altogether, there may be around 40 adult residents but I reckon more likely only about 35 or so who actually live on the island full time, all year round, come hail or shine.

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