The Mull BID stand-off

The ‘NO Confidence’ group of businesses, opposing the Mull, Iona and Ulva Business Improvement District [BID] proposal and who hosted the standing room only public meeting at Aros Hall in Tobermory on the night of 1st March, has issued a press statement on that meeting.

They say: ‘MI BID Group refused to take part in Friday’s meeting despite the offer of determining format timings. The overwhelming consensus for the NO Confidence group achieved at the meeting to do everything possible to stop this process is exactly what is being done. The end of voting process is 21st March; many people who have voted yes now, with benefit of greater clarity, want to vote NO, but there is no mechanism for this. The NO confidence group is focussing on the misrepresentation of information and failure to comply with regulations and until we hear back from Argyll & Bute council and Scottish executive another public meeting would not advance the situation.’

Meanwhile, the MI BID team has posted its responses to the points raised by ‘NO Confidence’ campaigner, David Gracie, on the MI BID website here. These are presented on a point by point basis, with Mr Gracie’s points repeated and followed by the BID team’s response. We recommend the reading of both issue and response, testing each against their relative strengths of evidence and argument, with an open mind.

Mr Gracie has replied by email, thanking the BID team for the responses they have published on their website and asking them also to publish his email there. His reply is courteous, as are the responses to his earlier points published by the BID team.

Since the public meeting on Friday night, some people present have posted comments remarking on the level of aggression evident in some supporters of the ‘NO Confidence’ group.

It is reassuring that there is no aggression in the exchanges between the BID team and Mr Gracie. They demonstrate that it is possible to have an engaged debate, argued uncompromisingly by either side, without becoming aggressive or offensive.

It could not be more important for Mull that others follow the examples of both of these key players in sticking to the arguments as they differently see them. It is the issue that matters – and whatever is the outcome of this proposal, Mull, as a whole, will need to work collaboratively to bring economic development to the island – by whatever means it collectively adopts.

Mr Gracie’s reply to the MI BID team is:

‘Dear Neil Hutton and Richard Nealon

Thanks for your reply on  Please display this letter too.  I respect your motives.  But good intentions are not enough.

‘You admit that your Plan would not merit commercial loan or investment.  You did not explain or defend it at Fionnphort, Tobermory and Craignure.  You did not come to the Aros Hall last Friday. Sympathisers there did not try to defend the Plan either.  No use saying that the Plan was blessed by Argyll and Bute and the Scottish Government.  It’s our money, not theirs.

‘The BID demanded formidable amounts of time, thought and difficult decisons from you.  Instead, you seem to have relied too much on an employee of MICT and the Edinburgh BID and PR machine.  So the Plan reflects a culture of charity and funding, not business and sales.  Public funds of £38,000 and 14 months have been wasted.

‘You say “the BID Steering Group are the BID Proposer under the legislation” and “run by businesses, it will have a business-like culture.  Confusion, delay and waste may be associated with some public bodies, but not BIDs”.  So why are at least 15 included on the Steering Group because they ticked a box to be kept informed and did not opt out?  You may face legal challenge if they did not formally endorse the Plan before it went to Edinburgh and Kilmory.

‘Misrepresentation of membership of the Steering Group has inhibited debate till now.  But the tide has turned.  We can still win the Ballot, even at this late stage.  It will not be easy, because 131 or 39% of voters live off the islands, including many owners of holiday homes.  The public sector vote of Argyll and Bute, Historic Scotland, Scottish Water, VisitScotland and Calmac totals 32 premises with an RV of £211,150.  So I am copying to Councillors Mary-Jean Devon and Alistair MacDougall suggesting that feelings will run high if these votes carry the BID.  The public sector bodies should at least abstain.

‘I am also copying to all voters.  Please forward to others.  Let’s all vote NO and get our friends to do the same – for Mull and Iona.’

Mr Gracie predicts that ;feelings will run high’ if the votes of the public sector swing the result.

It is arguable that while business rated premises run by public sector managements rightly carry the compulsory business levy on those rateable values, such managements, by thier nature, should not vote in what has to be a commercial decision.

It also has to be incumbent on the leaders of each opposing view to focus and direct their supporters in such a way as to ensure that ‘feelings’ do not run high.

It is, finally, the responsibility of every individual involved in this debate, of either persuasion, to engage only on the issues and to remain respectful of the position and views of their opponents. No one has a monopoly on being right.

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One Response to The Mull BID stand-off

  1. Can understand the issue surrounding BID’s. Google the Herald and the problems with BID’s in Largs North Ayrshire. The “No to Bids” campaign is currently on appeal to the Government because of the poor turnout (some say they did not get a ballet paper).
    Same manager involved promoting it in Dunoon –not sure about Mull. Businesses need to realise that a YES vote means they will be charged more by the council. Personally it is probably good for tourist type industry but no so for small businesses eg carpet stores, hairdressers etc. Don’t pay the surcharge –end up in court

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