Yesterday I attended a gathering of organisations campaigning to end discrimination and take practical steps to improve the lives of probably the most marginalised and discriminated community in Scotland - Gypsy Travellers.
This community can trace their Scottish origins back to at least the 15th Century. Sadly their persecution and discrimination is also as long standing. For a good summary there is a current E-Petition by Ken MacLennan gathering signatures on the Scottish Parliament website.
There is a clear understanding of the problems facing the Scottish Gypsy Traveller community and a concern over the lack of action by governments. Less clear is the apparent reluctance of the EHRC to take action on these issues.
There was a broad agreement that co-ordinated action is required across government departments and other public bodies. This could be facilitated by a Scottish Government task force that should include representatives from the community. Whilst there are many areas that need action, organisations recognised that we need to prioritise. Key areas include housing, education, health, public awareness and access to legal services. There are also problems with reserved matters like Job Centres and the role of the EHRC.
From a UNISON perspective we recognise that many of our members interface with the Scottish Gypsy Traveller community. Many members are unaware of the issues facing the community and the legal framework. We are therefore considering commissioning an advice booklet to assist members and raise awareness of the very real problems this community faces.