Managing unauthorised camping by Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland: guidance for local authorities

Practical advice for local authorities on how to manage unauthorised camp sites.

Chapter 3: General Approach to Unauthorised Sites

30. The Scottish Government recognises the right of Gypsy/Travellers to practise a nomadic lifestyle, including travelling and camping across Scotland. However, we also appreciate that local authorities have to balance this right with the needs of the settled community in their area.

31. While the large majority of unauthorised sites do not cause any difficulties, some sites can give rise to friction, for example if they are in inappropriate locations, those living on a site are not behaving in a responsible manner, or because of tension with local settled communities. This section sets out the general approach the Scottish Government considers is appropriate for a local authority in managing unauthorised sites.

Unsuitable locations

32. There are some locations where an unauthorised site will not be acceptable under any circumstances (because of traffic hazards, environmental damage, etc.). These locations should be identified by the local authority for its area, and communicated to everyone involved. These locations could include:

  • a site of scientific or environmental interest;
  • parks, public open spaces in regular use, sports and recreation grounds;
  • a site where pollution could damage water courses/water supply;
  • an area with toxic waste, serious ground pollution or other environmental hazard;
  • on a public road;
  • on the verge of a road (from a road safety perspective), including lay‑bys;
  • in proximity to a railway line where there may be a danger to individuals.

The above list is not exhaustive. We recommend that local authorities, in developing their own strategies for handling sites, identify those locations in their local authority area which are unsuitable for an unauthorised site.

Behaviour on a site

33. There are some behaviours that the Government expects those living on an unauthorised site to demonstrate. These include:

  • looking after the land the site is on;
  • showing respect to nearby residents;
  • keeping animals under control at all times. This includes acting to minimise the noise from dog barking;
  • disposing of litter and other rubbish in an appropriate manner ( e.g. no fly-tipping);
  • getting rid of animal and human waste hygienically;
  • not starting fires without prior written permission from the local authority or landowner;
  • minimising the noise from generators to prevent nuisance;
  • keeping groups small, and the number of caravans appropriate to the location.

34. Some local authorities have developed a code of conduct (or a good neighbour code) for unauthorised camping that details the standard of behaviour expected of

Gypsy/Travellers during their stay. It can also provide information that may be useful to Gypsy/Travellers while they are camping in an unfamiliar area, such as council contact numbers. Annex D includes the Code of Conduct used in East Ayrshire, as an example of good practice.

Behaviour around a site

35. While there are standards of behaviour expected of those living on unauthorised sites, there are also clear expectations for the behaviour from members of the settled community around sites. Any incidents of anti‑social behaviour directed at Gypsy/Travellers living on unauthorised sites should be reported to the police.

36. Hate crime is any criminal offence committed against an individual or property that is motivated by a person's hatred of someone because of his or her actual or perceived race, religion, transgender identity, sexual orientation or disability, and this includes a crime directed at someone because they are a Gypsy/Traveller. A hate crime can be reported directly to the Police, or through a network of third party reporting centres [1] .

37. In its management of unauthorised sites the local authority should be clear with the local settled community that anti‑social behaviour directed at those on an unauthorised site will not be tolerated. Gypsy/Travellers living on unauthorised sites can be the victims of crime, and we expect that any crimes committed against those living on an unauthorised site are investigated and handled by the police in line with their normal procedures.

Welfare needs

38. The Gypsy/Traveller community experiences poor outcomes in relation to health, education, and in other areas. Several agencies will potentially have an interest in the wellbeing of Gypsy/Travellers on an unauthorised site, including those dealing with housing, education, health, and social work. Local authorities should have arrangements in place to ensure that all the relevant services within the authority work effectively together, and are clear on their respective roles, in relation to meeting the needs of Gypsy/Travellers living on an unauthorised site. Local authorities should also have in place arrangements with relevant external bodies (such as the NHS) as necessary to ensure the welfare needs of those living on an unauthorised site are being met.


39. It is important when responding to an unauthorised site that a local authority ensures there is regular, clear, communication with Gypsy/Travellers living on the site, the local settled community, and relevant elected representatives. It is often best if that is carried out by a specific officer with the relevant experience and knowledge, generally the local authority's Gypsy/Traveller Liaison Officer. It is worth noting that literacy levels vary in Gypsy/Traveller communities, so verbal communication will be an important part of any communication plan.

40. In 2015 Planning Aid for Scotland ( PAS) was funded by Scottish Government to increase awareness and knowledge of the Scottish planning system and engagement between Gypsy/Travellers, planning professionals, elected members and community councillors. This has resulted in the publication of five guides on Gypsy/Travellers and the Scottish planning system, which can provide useful information on Gypsy/Traveller culture for elected members, community councillors, and others. The guides are available online at: These guides were produced independently of the Scottish Government, and represent the views of PAS.


Email: Ged Millar

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