Amnesty wants to see an end to the wide-spread and enduring failure to respect Scottish Gypsy Travellers’ rights. It’s time that the discrimination towards them – dubbed the ‘last bastion of respectable racism’ by the Scottish Human Rights Commission - ended.
Gypsy Travellers are not a uniform group or section of Scottish society. Some continue to live a nomadic lifestyle whilst many live in conventional housing. Some use the term Gypsy whilst others refer to themselves as Traveller. They are all, however, recognised in law as a distinct ethnic group and all routinely suffer from discrimination.
Amnesty’s campaign has two elements. We want to see Scottish Gypsy Travellers receive the same standard of public services as the settled community. We also want to see action from national and local government, and the media, to address the persistent discrimination faced by Scottish Gypsy Travellers.
Research and evidence
Amnesty International published two reports on Scottish Gypsy Travellers in 2012. ‘On the Margins’ looked at local authority service provision with respect to the right to adequate housing. We found that more political leadership was needed at national and local level to bring communities and agencies together. This was vital to address Scottish Gypsy Traveller needs that have been well documented but unmet for too long.
Our ‘Caught in the Headlines’ report looked at how the media represented Scottish Gypsy Travellers. We found a wealth of evidence of discrimination against Scottish Gypsy Travellers, as well as hostility and divisions between these people and settled communities. These issues are also highlighted in the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Gypsy Travellers In Scotland Media Resource.
The Scottish Parliament Equal Opportunities Committee has produced a number of reports on the issues facing Scottish Gypsy Travellers, with the first of these being in 2001. The progress made in addressing the problems found was documented in their March 2013 report ‘Where Gypsy/Travellers Live’.
The Committee’s research found that little had changed since their earlier report. In particular, conditions on many local authority Gypsy Traveller sites continued to be poor and the understanding of their culture and community was lacking.
Scottish Government response
The Scottish Government committed to develop a cross government group to take forward recommendations made by the Equal Opportunities Committee. A group looking at housing-specific issues has been convened. We are still awaiting news of the Scottish Government’s high-level group looking at a strategic approach at the issues facing Gypsy Travellers.
UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing
In 2013, Amnesty facilitated meetings with young Scottish Gypsy Traveller women and residents of a Gypsy Traveller site for Raquel Rolnik, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing. Our formal submission to the Special Rapporteur called for effective and efficient implementation of the recommendations outlined in the Equal Opportunities Committee’s reports. Ms Rolnik’s report highlighted that the UK and Scottish governments needed to ‘Strengthen efforts to address stigma and discrimination for the Gypsy and Traveller communities in relation to the wider spectrum of rights’.