Map of stopping-off places would help Gypsy/Traveller community, says MSP

Councils are required to plan for the current and future housing needs of the Gypsy/Traveller community but plans for permanent camps and stopping places often meet with local objections. Picture: Steven Brown
Councils are required to plan for the current and future housing needs of the Gypsy/Traveller community but plans for permanent camps and stopping places often meet with local objections. Picture: Steven Brown
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The mapping of stopping-off places would help improve the lives of Scotland’s Gypsy/Traveller community, an MSP has said.

Scottish ministers should comission the documenting of such sites to stop Travellers feeling “ostracised from our cities, towns and villages”, said Greens MSP John Finnie in a Holyrood debate this week.

There are at least 4,000 people in the Gypsy/Traveller community in Scotland, which dates back to the 12th Century, although some believe the figure could be as high as 20,000.

Most Gypsy/Travellers are found in Perth and Kinross, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

Mr Finnie said: “Warm words about the contribution made by our Gypsy and Traveller communities are fine, but what we need is action now to make their lives better. Gypsy/Travellers can often feel ostracised from our cities, towns and villages, but if we were to carry out mapping of stopping-off places it’ll go a long way to ease tensions and bring an end to the great deal of prejudice that sadly exists towards these people.

“This work cannot be patchy and we need all 32 local authorities’ participation, so this must be overseen by government ministers. So many sites traditionally used by Gypsy/Travellers have been sealed up and we need to encourage landowners, including local authorities and other public bodies, to open up the sites again to reinforce the value that we place on the travelling lifestyle.”

The Scottish Government consider Scottish Gypsy/Travellers, a protected ethic group, to be among the “most disenfranchised and discriminated in society”.

Parliament’s equalities committee last year found “entrenched and stubbornly high levels of discrimination” against the community.

Approximately 90 per cent of Traveller children have suffered racial abuse, and nearly two thirds have been subjected to bullying or physically assault, according to reports.

Councils are required to plan for the current and future housing needs of the Gypsy/Traveller community but plans for permanent camps and stopping places often meet with local objection and fail to win planning permission.

Unauthorised sites can spring up as a result, leading to conflict with the settled community.