Gypsies and Travellers to tell MSPs of discrimination

Holyrood committee will hear evidence to mark the run-up to World Human Rights Day on Sunday.

Travellers: Survey highlighted extent of discrimination (file pic). David Wright

MSPs will hear directly from members of the Gypsy and Traveller communities about discrimination they have experienced in Scotland.

Holyrood's Equalities and Human Rights Committee will take evidence from a panel of Travellers to mark the run-up to World Human Rights Day on Sunday.

The committee is examining what progress has been made on tackling entrenched discriminatory attitudes towards the community since past Holyrood inquiries into the issue.

The most recent Scottish Social Attitudes survey found 34% of people believed a Gypsy or Traveller would be unsuitable to be a primary-school teacher while 31% would be unhappy if a close relative married into a travelling family.

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These numbers represent a decline on figures from 2010, but committee convener Christina McKelvie admitted there was still a "long way to go" to end discrimination.

She said: "Continued discrimination against the Gypsy Traveller community will be a concern to all of us who want Scotland to be a tolerant, welcoming place.

"While we welcome some reduction in discriminatory attitudes, there is clearly a long way to go. For too long, discrimination against Gypsy/Travellers has been the last form of 'acceptable racism'.

"By using our World Human Rights Day session to celebrate Gypsy Traveller communities, we want to clearly signal our determination to end the formal and informal discrimination Gypsy/Travellers face.

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"Of course, we will also be exploring the role that government and local authorities could have in stemming this problem and trying to find out what changes there have been since this issue was looked at last."

Earlier this year, Scottish Tory MP Douglas Ross was criticised for saying his priority as prime minister would be to bring in "tougher enforcement against Gypsy Travellers".

Ms McKelvie claimed the Moray MP's comments showed the Scottish Conservatives were "normalising prejudice when they should be condemning it."

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