EHRC calls for improvements at Scotland’s traveller sites
A new report has found that while local authorities have developed successful Gypsy Traveller sites throughout Scotland, more work is still needed.
The research, published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), was commissioned in response to claims from some councils in Scotland who said they were unable to secure land or planning permission to build new permanent or transit sites for travellers.
Without a proper site, the EHRC has said that the travelling community is likely to continue to face hostility.
For example, a lack of provision in services has resulted in Gypsy Travellers “pulling in” at the roadside in some locations, while tensions are also evident regarding funding or planning permission for potential sites.
In 2014, there were 59 named sites in 18 local authority areas in Scotland for travellers. The research looked at how councils had developed these sites.
Alastair Pringle, director of 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 Gypsy Travellers, either in private or public ownership.
“This ongoing lack of provision is forcing many Gypsy 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 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 Traveller community with concerns of the settled community.”
Phil Brown, professor of social change at the University of Salford, who conducted the research, added: “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 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/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.”