Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland issues call for urgent national leadership on Gypsy Traveller Accommodaton stalemate

The Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland today called for the Scottish Government to provide urgent national leadership on the current situation as regards Gypsy Traveller accommodation in order to prevent further tension escalating within communities. 

The Commission will shortly publish research demostrating the current lack of suitable accommodation and highlighting the need for action to ensure that there are sufficient suitable sites across Scotland, especially during the summer months.
Chris Oswald, Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland Head of Policy, said:

" It is our strong view that unless we see clear and unequivocal leadership on this matter then tensions between communities will only increase.  Reports that tensions are rising between residents and gypsy travellers in some areas of Scotland and that local residents are resorting to direct action to prevent Gypsy Travellers from accessing private and public land only underline how serious the matter has become.

Our research shows only 5 out of 32 local authorities have completed accommodation assessments that give them a real idea of the numbers of present and future pitch needed.  The research also finds that since 2006 there has been a net decrease in the number of pitches available for Gypsy Travellers. 

It is clear is that the first step to a solution - identifying the scale of the shortfall to be met - is not yet in place. All we are talking about is the provision of land equivalent to the size of 1 or 2 football pitches across Scotland. This will take the pressure off local communities and allow Gypsy Travellers to pass through without causing disruption.  Surely this is not an impossible task?  We are equally clear that there is no justification for Gypsy Travellers breaking the law.  We fully understand the frustrations of local residents if crimes have been committed in their area.  Criminal behaviour is criminal behaviour and must be dealt with by the relevant authorities.

This has been an ugly summer with regard to disputes between local communities and Gypsy Travellers and it is in no-one’s interest for this to continue.  The Scottish Government can no longer state that only local solutions are the answer.   Simply evicting people from one area displaces the problem to another group of local residents and the cycle continues.  It's not fair on the residents and it is not fair on Gypsy Travellers.  We are calling on the Scottish Government to devote the necessary resources to secure the sites we desperately need and to bring people together to seek resolution.
What we need now is for all parties, Gypsy Travellers, residents, councillors, the Scottish Government and the press to behave responsibly, seek a resolution and not provoke further confrontation. 

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For more information please contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission Media Office on 07970 541 369.

Notes to Editors

The Commission is concerned about the moderation of online comment boards accompanying Gypsy Traveller media articles, we have recently seen comments such as:
‘Hazlehead crematorium has capacity for the final solution’
It is our view that such comments amount to either direct racism or incitement to racial harassment, we ask that news editors regularly review their comment boards and moderate as required.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland has produced a resource for journalists writing about Gypsy Travellers. It contains advice about terminology and how to handle issues of concern, as well as contact details for organisations who work with Gypsy Travellers in Scotland. It is available online at: www.equalityhumanrights.com/scotland



Last Updated: 20 Sep 2010