• STV
  • MySTV

Conservative MP apologises over gypsy traveller remarks

Douglas Ross said he would like 'tougher enforcement' against the community.

Douglas Ross: Ex-MSP was elected to the House of Commons in June.
Douglas Ross: Ex-MSP was elected to the House of Commons in June. PA

A Conservative MP has apologised for saying his priority as prime minister would be to bring in "tougher enforcement against gypsy travellers".

Douglas Ross made the comments in an online interview when asked what he would do if he was prime minister for the day.

He was criticised by opposition parties and human rights groups but said it was an issue within his Moray constituency, where landowners have faced court action and clean-up costs from camp sites.

Speaking on Friday, Ross said he would pick another priority such as tackling global famine or eradicating cancer if asked the question again.

But the SNP accused him of a "weasel-worded apology" and said he had "compounded" his initial comments by describing travellers' sites in his constituency on the A96 as a "blight on our communitry".

Ross said: "I do apologise for saying that would be a number one priority as prime minister, that clearly wouldn't be the case for any prime minister.

"If I was given the opportunity to do that quick-fire interview again, I would definitely come up with a different priority."

He added: "This is an issue that needs to be addressed and it's unfortunate that we cannot openly discuss it for fear of being called a bigot and a racist.

"If we do that then no one will ever mention this again and the divisions within these communities will maintain and the settled community will feel their voice does not get raised in this argument and problems with the gypsy travelling community will continue because no one is willing to debate and discuss this important issue."

'This is an issue that needs to be addressed and it's unfortunate that we cannot openly discuss it for fear of being called a bigot and a racist.'
Douglas Ross MP

Asked how many times there had been unauthorised travellers' encampments in his constituency, Ross answered: "It happens very often here in Moray."

He added: "Just driving along the A96 yesterday, there were two or three illegal, unauthorised traveller encampments which are a blight on our community."

In the Meet The MPs interview series with Core Politics, Ross was asked: "If you were prime minister for the day, without any repercussions, what would you do?"

He said: "I would like to see tougher enforcement against gypsy travellers."

The video then cuts to the next question.

Ross claimed his Moray seat from the SNP's Angus Robertson in one of the Conservatives' biggest scalps in June's general election, in which they won 13 seats in Scotland.

He was formerly a Scottish Tory MSP for the Highlands and Islands region.

Ross is also a football official for the SFA and will be working at Parkhead this weekend for Celtic's game against St Johnstone.

His comments about gypsy travellers are being looked at by the SFA's compliance officer.

The controversy comes after Ruth Davidson defended on Thursday her party's decision to readmit two Conservative councillors despite racist and sectarian comments they posted on social media.

https://stv.tv/news/politics/1396353-davidson-defends-decision-to-reinstate-tory-councillors/ | default

SNP MSP Christina McKelvie claimed that both episodes showed the Scottish Conservatives were "normalising prejudice when they should be condemning it."

She said: "Douglas Ross's initial comments about gypsy travellers were disgraceful - he has now compounded that with his suggestion they are a 'blight on our community' who have too much legal protection and need to be 'dealt with'.

"He would be well advised to stop digging the deep whole he has already dug for himself.

And his weasel-worded apology will do nothing to dispel the growing realisation that prejudice and bigotry are alive and well in Ruth Davidson's Tories.

McKelvie added: "There is a serious danger that rather than condemning intolerance and prejudice, Ruth Davidson's Tory party is normalising it.

"The Scottish Tory party offers a home to extremist views, turns a blind eye to prejudice and allows those who spout offensive nonsense to hold elected office."

Download: The STV News app is Scotland's favourite and is available for iPhone from the App store and for Android from Google Play. Download it today and continue to enjoy STV News wherever you are.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
ShowHide
Forgot password?
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This must be at least 6 characters long.
ShowHide
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long.
You must be over 16 to join STV.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
We need this to check that you live in an STV region.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid postcode
Would you like us to email you about our great shows and services from time to time?
We'll only send emails we think you'll like (see example) based on information you have supplied and shows you have watched on STV Player. For details on emails and advertising, see our STV & You page.
Would you like to receive emails from the Scottish Children's Lottery about draws, instant games and competitions?
We support the Scottish Children's Lottery (SCL), which is managed by our colleagues at STV ELM Ltd. You can find out more about the SCL on its website, including its Privacy Policy.

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, and understand our Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.

Thanks

We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.

Oops!

Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.

Oops!

Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.

http://shows.stv.tv/real-heroes/voting

Oops!

Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.