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Preliminary Findings on Gypsy/Travellers - Review of Progress, 07/10/05 [S]

A report by The Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee has concluded that the Scottish Executive has made “insufficient progress” in improving the quality of life for Gypsy/Travellers living in Scotland.

Furthermore the reported evidence suggests that extreme levels of “discrimination and vilification” persist across Scotland.

The criticism comes in preliminary findings of the Committee's review, aimed at assessing progress since the publication of its 2001 inquiry report into Gypsy/Travellers and Public Sector Policies. The Committee consistently found progress across the country to be “patchy and slow”.

The report will inform the work of a Scottish Executive short-life working group to look at Gypsy/ Traveller issues. Once the group has reported, expected March 2006, the Committee will publish final recommendations.

Key issues

Legal status
The Committee is extremely concerned at the continuing lack of formal legal status for Scottish Gypsy/Travellers under the Race Relations Act four years after the publication of its report. Witnesses who gave evidence on progress made expressed the view that there was a need for legislative change in three areas:
  • the formalisation of the ethnic status of Scottish Gypsy/Travellers
  • changes to housing legislation to provide that mobile homes and caravans on Gypsy/Traveller sites are considered as housing
  • the introduction of a statutory duty for local authorities to provide suitable and adequate sites.
Representation and Participation
The Committee found that although there was some evidence of progress by some local authorities in relation to involving Gypsy/ Travellers in decision-making processes that impact on their lives, progress is patchy, inconsistent, often tokenistic and lacking in commitment to ensure effective participation.

Pace of progress
There was a widespread feeling of disappointment amongst the witnesses at the slow pace of progress and patchy delivery in relation to the recommendations in the Committee’s 2001 report.

Need for strategic leadership and sharing best practice

A number of witnesses stressed the need for a national strategy and strong,  national leadership on Gypsy/Traveller issues.  In addition to this, it was felt that a national process for facilitating the sharing of good practice would be useful.

A targeted approach to service delivery for Gypsy/Travellers
is required

Appointment of Gypsy/Traveller liaison officers (GTLO)
The Committee’s 2001 report recommended that local authorities should appoint Gypsy/Traveller liaison officers.  Evidence received suggests that little progress has been made in terms of local authorities appointing GTLOs.  

The Committee supports the call for a comprehensive, national review of sites and for the extension across Scotland of an effective, co-ordinated assessment of Gypsy/Travellers’ accommodation needs and aspirations such as was carried out by Communities Scotland for Tayside.

The Committee found evidence that some good work is being done but that this work is patchy and dependent on the commitment of key individuals.

The Committee recognised that much good work is being done in relation to the issues faced by Gypsy/Travellers in taking part in education and particularly welcomes the work done by STEP, supported by funding from the Scottish Executive, and such voluntary organisations as TEIP.The Committee is, however, concerned at the apparently poor take-up of the guidance issued by STEP, as evidenced in its own research. 

Police and Criminal Justice
The Committee welcomes the ACPOS Guidance for the Management of Unauthorised Encampments of the Gypsy/Traveller Community. The Committee recognises the police’s difficulty in engaging with representative groups and welcomes the police’s willingness to engage with support agencies, such as Save the Children (Scotland), in dealing with issues relevant to Gypsy/Travellers.

Promoting Good Relations

From the evidence received by the Committee in its review of progress it is clear that there has been little, if any, progress in terms of promoting good relations.  In fact, the Committee has heard evidence which suggests that much of the good work being done by the local authorities in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire has been undermined by negative media reporting. The Committee expressed concern at the unacceptable and irresponsible reporting in relation to Gypsy/Travellers, which has come to light during the course of its review of progress. 

The Committee published the report of its Inquiry into Gypsy/Travellers and Public Sector Policies in June 2001. The report contained 37 recommendations covering accommodation, health, education, personal social services, policing and criminal justice and promoting good relations. The report was positively received by a wide range of stakeholders and the work of Committee was referred to as ‘groundbreaking' in a Human Rights Report by the US State Department to the US Senate and House of Representatives.

The Scottish Executive has responded twice to the 2001 report; its initial response was published in October 2001 and an updated response – Delivering for Scotland's Gypsies/Travellers – was published in June 2004.

Further information

Preliminary Findings on Gypsy/Travellers - Review of Progress
Gypsy/Travellers - Review of Progress website
Preliminary Findings on Gypsy/ Travellers - Review of Progress News Release