I attended a round table discussion today hosted by Amnesty International to address the struggles of the Scottish Gypsy Traveller community. Branches have raised this issue at UNISON Scottish Council and the STUC debated the issue at this year's congress.
Gypsy Travellers probably first came to Scotland in the 12th century and there are around 25,000 living in Scotland today. Some 20% of these living in caravans or similar culturally appropriate accommodation. They suffer from widespread racial discrimination, a shortage of permanent and transit sites and find it virtually impossible to secure legal representation for civil matters.
In 2001 the Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee made 37 recommendations to address the community's concerns. However, few if any have been implemented. There are plenty of fine words in Scottish Government and council statements - but little action.
We discussed a range of possible campaign actions that focus on raising public awareness of the challenges facing Scottish Gypsy Travellers coupled with practical measures to address housing and human rights. A range of organisations have come together so far, and we want to pull together a broader coalition of civic society organisations around an agreed Charter. The harassment and discrimination this community faces daily, truly is Scotland's hidden shame.