Publication - Research and analysis

Gypsy/Travellers - accommodation needs: evidence review

Published: 23 Oct 2020
Housing and Social Justice Directorate
Part of:
Equality and rights, Housing

Overview of the evidence about the accommodation needs of Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland, drawing on both academic and grey literature. It discusses current provision, accommodation needs and aspirations, and identifies key areas which could be explored through further research.

Gypsy/Travellers - accommodation needs: evidence review
8. Conclusions

8. Conclusions

This report has provided an overview of Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland and has sought to assess the existing evidence base on their accommodation needs. From this, several patterns emerge across the studies with relevance for further research:


  • Gypsy/Travellers are not a homogenous group and have differing cultural needs and practice varying degrees of nomadism. A 'one-size fits all' approach to accommodation is therefore not appropriate and unlikely to work in practice. Accommodation needs are also likely to change over an individual's life course
  • There is limited available evidence on the current population, specific accommodation aspirations and travel patterns of Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland
  • There is no agreed methodology for understanding Gypsy/Traveller accommodation needs, but evidence suggests that, particularly when attempting to meet aspirations, a degree of collaboration with the local Gypsy/Traveller population is key
  • Accommodation preferences of Gypsy/Travellers are diverse, and influenced by a number of factors, including privacy, proximity to family, access to services and health considerations

Site provision and management

  • Ways of engaging Gypsy/Travellers in the research planning, design and implementation of accommodation needs assessments, should be considered carefully, including ways of reaching households in conventional housing. GTLOs, site managers and organisations working with the community may valuable sources to facilitate this
  • Partnership and sub-regional working are crucial to the completion of robust Gypsy/Traveller needs assessments, particularly where travel patterns cross local authority boundaries
  • Despite the introduction of minimum standards, the poor quality of sites continues to be a major issue for many Gypsy/Travellers on local authority/RSL sites
  • A proactive approach to the management of sites could improve standards, reduce conflict with the settled community and make sites more sustainable in the long-term
  • Failure to meet the accommodation needs of Gypsy/Travellers is a key factor in the discrimination that they face, and often places them in conflict with the settled community
  • Opposition from the settled community continues to present a significant barrier to further site provision. Ways to alleviate this tension and engage the wider community in the planning process should be considered

Access to services

  • A lack of understanding of Gypsy/Traveller culture persists across many statutory and voluntary services, including health and housing

8.1 Further research

The findings above are drawn from a range of studies, most of which focus on known sections of the Gypsy/Traveller community living on official sites or encampments known to local authorities. The findings offer a picture of what life is like for the research participants and provide some insight into what progress has been made in recent years towards meeting the accommodation needs of Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland. It demonstrates that Gypsy/Travellers currently live in a variety of different types of accommodation, which can differ according to their personal and cultural needs. These cultural needs principally relate to the ability to maintain a travelling lifestyle but can include preferences around privacy, proximity to family and land for horses. The findings indicate that Gypsy/Travellers continue to face significant levels of discrimination in Scotland, both from the settled community and in accessing a range of services. Discrimination which can have a significant impact on their housing experiences and decisions. The case studies included in this report offer examples of approaches which could be adapted to the Scottish context. However, attached costs remain unclear and to mitigate the risk of underuse, consultation with local Gypsy/Travellers will be required before these approaches can be implemented.

Insightful though these findings are, this report remains a partial view and gaps in the evidence exist. In particular, the experience of housed Gypsy/Travellers remains largely under-researched and there is little evidence on the preferences of different cultural groups. The available evidence on the demographic and geographic profile of the population is dated and limited in terms of accuracy, and this restricts the insight it offers. There is also little research on traditional travelling routes in Scotland and as such, it is unclear where sites should be re-opened or if further provision is needed. What is evident, is that travelling is currently being suppressed below the level of aspiration, and this suppression is understood to threaten group identity and culture.

8.2 Gaps in evidence that could be addressed by further research

  • the current demographic and geographic profile of Gypsy/Traveller population
  • the experiences of housed Gypsy/Travellers
  • discriminatory attitudes within the settled community
  • preferred locations of transit and stopping places, including traditional travelling routes
  • meaning of culturally appropriate accommodation for different groups