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Amnesty Scotland launches Scottish Gypsy Traveller reports

Some positive steps being made to counter discrimination but still a long way to go

Amnesty International Scotland will today (Monday 2 April) launch two reports on Scottish Gypsy Travellers at the City of Edinburgh Council's City Chambers. Both reports are available to download further down this page.

The reports outline findings on local authority service provision and practice and media coverage of Scottish Gypsy Travellers throughout Scotland, and are the result of the organisation's campaign to highlight the widespread and systematic discrimination suffered by this community throughout Scotland.

The event will be chaired by Mary Fee MSP, Convener of the Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee. As well as the report launch, the event will feature contributions from the Scottish Gypsy Traveller community as well as organisations working with the community. There will also be contributions from the City of Edinburgh Council and Perth and Kinross Council.

The research which forms the basis for the reports was based on the 2001 report and recommendations from the Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee.

Amnesty International Director in Scotland, Shabnum Mustapha, said:

"It is extremely disappointing that, after so long, this community is still suffering such direct and indirect discrimination. Whilst our research has found that there are some positive steps being made, and we welcome this, there is a long way to go to tackle the deep-rooted inequalities which Scottish Gypsy Travellers face every day. It is time that all local authorities learn from the good practice that is being developed, with the community, in certain parts of Scotland. We also want to see the Scottish Government adopt a much more prominent and public role on Scottish Gypsy Travellers, showing clear national leadership to ensure this community's rights are being met.

"Unfortunately much of this discrimination is being fuelled by an irresponsible media that uses loaded language and stereotypes to stoke an already hostile environment and maintain tensions between Scottish Gypsy Travellers and the settled community. Whilst there are professional journalists who are responsible in their coverage of Scottish Gypsy Travellers, they are sadly overshadowed by sensationalist reporting which does not adhere to ethical guidelines. "

Lynne Tammi, National Co-ordinator of Article 12 in Scotland, said:

“In terms of provision and services, examples of good practice are emerging. However, if we are to address the inequalities experienced by Gypsy/Travellers, much more must be done. The provision of more permanent and halt sites and opportunities to participate in decision making processes at local and national level would be good starting points.

"Addressing prejudice and inequality is everyone’s business. The media has a role to play in this. A quick Google search of key words such as ‘Gypsy’ and ‘Traveller’ will throw up myriad negative articles about the community, these serve only to reinforce stereotypes. Fairer reporting, which gives due regard to ethnic status and culture, would go a long way to address this.”

Paul Holleran, Scottish Organiser for the NUJ, said:

"The National Union of Journalists welcomes the findings of the Amnesty International report and will continue its work to ensure the highest standards of journalism are met."

Service provision by local authorities

Report:  On the Margins: Local Authority Service Provision for Scottish Gypsy Travellers  (PDF)

  • 82% of Local Housing Strategies included some consideration of issues affecting the accommodation needs of Scottish Gypsy Travellers. Worryingly, only nine local authorities suggested good planning whilst five had no details whatsoever.
  • The largest issue identified was the lack of halting or transit sites. Whilst some local authorities acknowledged that this was an issue, some also stated that opposition from the local community was a barrier to implementation. One local authority told us that it was difficult to identify a site that did 'not offend someone'. Funding additional sites was also identified as a barrier with one local authority saying it 'had so far not considered such sites as a priority capital project'.
  • Assessments commissioned by some local authorities recognised a need for them to debunk myths and stereotypes about Gypsy Travellers in their local authority areas.
  • Only 47% of Council's Race/Single Equality Schemes made any mention of Scottish Gypsy Travellers with only five Councils making full reference to any circumstances or needs of Scottish Gypsy Travellers in relation to issues such as services and plans to tackle racism and harassment.
  • Although a recommendation in the Equal Opportunities Committee's 2001 report, only ten local authorities employed a 'Gypsy Traveller Liaison Officer'.

Media coverage

Report: Caught in the Headlines: Scottish media coverage of Scottish Gypsy Travellers strong> (PDF)

  • There seems to be a disproportionate amount of scrutiny of Scottish Gypsy Travellers in the Scottish media. The monitoring exercise which formed the basis of the media analysis classified 190 articles as relating to this community over a period of four months - 1.5 articles a day for a population which is less than 0.5% the Scottish population.
  • Nearly half (48%) of stories were categorised as overtly negative, with certain stereotypes featuring particularly strongly - articles making connections to criminality (38%) and those making reference to dirt and hygiene (32%).
  • Whilst local politicians were frequently called upon to comment on issues relating to Scottish Gypsy Travellers, their statements were overwhelmingly negative - out of 78 occasions only four occasions were characterised as positive and 48 as negative. However, the overwhelming majority of articles took place without any involvement from the Scottish Gypsy Traveller community - only 6% had any inclusion of comment from the Scottish Gypsy Traveller community.

Launch event

The event is supported by The City of Edinburgh Council, Article 12 Scotland, NUJ Scotland and MECOPP.

City of Edinburgh Council Chambers, 253 High Street  Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh EH1 1YJ.

When: 11am - 2pm, Monday, 2nd April 2012

Media welcome to attend - photo opportunities available.

Representatives of the Scottish Gypsy Traveller community as well as organisations taking part are available on the day for interview.

Event Schedule

Formal presentations taking place between 11am and 12.10pm followed by lunch and exhibition.
Workshops will run 1pm - 2pm.

Workshop 1 - Local Authority Service Provision
Facilitators - George Narval and Anne Davidson from Edinburgh City Council and Lynne Tammi from Article 12

Workshop 2 - Local Authority Service Provision
Facilitators - David McPhee from Perth and Kinross Council and Michelle Lloyd from MECOPP
Workshop 3 - Scottish Media
Facilitator - Paul Holleran, NUJ Scotland

Article 12 is a young person led network that works to promote young people's participation and information rights as set out in international human rights charters. This includes work with young Scottish Gypsy Travellers.

MECOPP is Scotland’s leading Black and Minority Ethnic carers organisation.

Notes on the reports

On the Margins: Local Authority Service Provision for Scottish Gypsy Travellers (PDF)
All 32 Councils responded to our information request. However, responses from the Island authorities made it difficult to ascertain whether or not they had a population of Scottish Gypsy Travellers with accommodation needs beyond the informal arrangements in place. Therefore our research only analyses data drawn from the 29 Scottish mainland authorities.

Caught in the Headlines: Scottish media coverage of Scottish Gypsy Travellers
The analysis which formed the basis of this report was undertaken by Napier University MSc Journalism students to ensure an unbiased and consistent approach to categorisation of articles. Monitoring took place between February and May 2011 (120 days).

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