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.