Published: 19 Jan 2015
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has today published research on how local authorities have successfully developed and maintained Gypsy and Traveller sites in Scotland. The research was commissioned in direct response to claims from some Scottish local authorities that they were unable to secure land or planning permission to build new permanent or transit sites.
Speaking today Alastair Pringle, Director of the EHRC Scotland said:
'Over the last year we have seen once again tension in some parts of Scotland concerning the development of temporary or permanent sites for Gypsies and Travellers, either in private or public ownership. This ongoing lack of provision is forcing many Gypsies and Travellers into “pulling in” at the roadside, often in high profile areas and then risking eviction and local hostility. The research shows that with planning and care it is perfectly possible to develop new Gypsy and Traveller sites in Scotland – examples like Falkirk Council’s approach to private sites or South Ayrshire’s refurbishment of their existing sites show that you can balance the needs of the Gypsy and Traveller community with concerns of the settled community.'
Phil Brown, Professor of Social Change at the University of Salford, who conducted the research, said:
'The location of the site is paramount. Our research has found that whilst there may be concerns at the start of process from locals living nearby, proper management of the site rarely leads to ongoing concerns. As with most new developments communication between the council, local residents and the Gypsy and Traveller community is also key, as is support for local councillors who will be the final decision makers. Taking a strategic rather than ad hoc approach is also recommended as the more transparent the Council is the more likely they will have public support.'
Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights Alex Neil said:
'Decisions about the provision of Gypsy and Traveller sites are best made at the local level, by those with local knowledge and accountability. This research provides useful examples of good practice for those involved in making those decisions, including the importance of communication and dialogue when establishing a new site, and selecting the right location. The Scottish Government has already strengthened local strategic planning for accommodation in relation to the needs of Gypsy and Travellers, by publishing revised guidance for Housing Need and Demand Assessments and Local Housing Strategies. This is to help make sure that the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers are fully taken into account by local authorities as they plan accommodation provision in their area.'
Research by the Scottish Government recently confirmed that in 2014 there were 59 sites in 18 local authority areas in Scotland – a change from the 53 sites in 23 local authority areas reported in 2009. Altogether there were 763 pitches available in public or private ownership.
Commenting further Mr Pringle said:
'We look forward to the publication of the Governments Gypsy and Traveller strategy later this year as what is needed is a coordinated and coherent approach to the development of sites across Scotland rather than the current ad hoc arrangements where local authorities make decisions in isolation. We hope that this report will provide some inspiration to those charged with locating and providing sites. Without proper provision the community is likely to continue to face hostility and councils are likely to waste more money on avoidable evictions.'
For further information please contact the Commission’s media officer on 07846889425. Professor Phil Brown is also available for comment.
Notes for editors
- The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) promotes and enforces the laws that protect our rights to fairness, dignity and respect. We are the National Equality Body (NEB) for Scotland, England and Wales, working across the nine protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010: age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation and gender reassignment
- The report sets out 4 examples of practice – in Falkirk, South Ayrshire, Perth and Carlisle - and identifies strategies which are likely to lead to successful and sustained provision.
- According to the 2011 Census there were 4, 200 people describing themselves as Gypsies or Travellers in Scotland. However comparison with school census data and reports from Gypsy and Traveller projects suggest that the actual number is higher than this. Many people in the community are reported as not disclosing their ethnicity for fear of discrimination or harassment.
- Many parts of Scotland still have no provision – Glasgow, Moray, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, & Inverclyde all reported having no local authority or private sites to the Scottish Government in 2014. In contrast 30% of all pitches in Scotland are in South Lanarkshire (216 out of 743) and another 26% in Fife (195 out of 743).
- The Scottish Government will publish a national Gypsy and Traveller strategy later in 2015. The EHRC has argued for a network of sites across Scotland, in public, private or voluntary sector ownership to ensure that Gypsies and Travellers are able to avoid pulling in on private or public land in the future.