'Mistreated' Travellers seek official apology

Calls for a formal and public apology for the "ill-treatment" of Travellers will be raised with the Scottish Government.

Holyrood's public petitions committee said they would ask ministers to respond to concerns that the Scottish Gypsy Traveller community has been mistreated and "racially discriminated against" for decades.

MSPs said more information was required from petitioner Ken MacLennan to back up the appeal for an apology.

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In his submission, Mr Mac-Lennan, from Inverurie in Aberdeenshire, set out examples of mistreatment dating back almost 500 years, including anti-gypsy laws.

SNP committee member Jamie Hepburn asked whether there had been "systemic abuse" of Travellers. He added: "I don't get the sense there's enough evidence here to proceed on that basis.

"I would suggest maybe returning to the petitioner and asking for a bit more evidence as to why the Scottish Government should apologise. I don't think it's clear as to what they're meant to be apologising for."

Labour member Bill Butler asked for more supportive evidence and suggested writing to the government asking if it accepted the allegations of historic discrimination.

He added: "The claim that is made is a very worrying claim, it's also a very large claim."

Mr MacLennan welcomed the decision and said: "It's good to see they're asking a number of agencies for a response, which I think will be helpful.

"The request for more information will open a few cans of worms."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "This is a matter for the petitions committee and we have no plans in this area."

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"We believe it is important to balance the rights of the settled community while respecting the rights of the Gypsy Traveller community to follow their traditional way of life."