2.1 This report presents findings from a study collating data on Gypsy/Traveller sites in Scotland. The Scottish Government commissioned Engage Scotland and Craigforth to undertake the data collection exercise to provide a baseline understanding of current supply and use of Gypsy/Traveller sites in Scotland, and to support future policy development.
2.2 Gypsy/Travellers are recognised as a distinct ethnic group by the Scottish Government. The population in Scotland includes a range of communities who regard a travelling lifestyle as an important part of their identity, some of whom travel all year round while others maintain a permanent base on a site or in housing. This includes specific population groups such as Romany Gypsies and Scottish and Irish Travellers. Others such as Showpeople or New Age Travellers are distinct groups who are not generally regarded as Gypsy/Travellers.
2.3 The Scottish Government recognises that Gypsy/Travellers are a particularly marginalised and discriminated against population. This is reflected in the extent to which Gypsy/Travellers have been a focus for Scottish Government policy development over recent years, across planning, housing and equalities.
2.4 Most recently, the Scottish Government’s Race Equality Action Plan sets out key actions for the current parliamentary session to drive positive change for minority ethnic groups in Scotland, and highlights the need for change to improve the experiences and opportunities for Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland. A Ministerial Working Group has been established to drive these changes for Gypsy/Travellers, and has identified housing and planning as one of four key areas of focus.
2.5 The needs of Gypsy/Travellers are also recognised in Scottish Government planning policy. For example, an equalities impact assessment conducted in relation to the 2016 report of the independent review of the Scottish planning system, recognised concerns about the extent to which Gypsy/Travellers’ accommodation needs are being met. Current policy and guidance are also clear that housing strategies and development plans should be based on a robust housing need and demand assessment – including evidence on current provision and likely future need for sites for Gypsy/Travellers. Where there is evidence of such a need, Local Development Plans are expected to include suitable land allocation and consider the need for policies for private sites. Strategic Development Plans also have a role in cross-boundary consideration of needs for city regions – particularly important given Gypsy/Travellers’ mobile lifestyle.
2.6 There is limited published data on the Gypsy/Traveller population to support these policy processes. The 2011 Census is the most current source of data on the size and profile of the population of Scotland, although this is likely to underestimate the Gypsy/Traveller population due to a range of issues such as reluctance of individuals to identify as Gypsy/Traveller and challenges accessing the population living on sites and by the roadside. Moreover, while local authorities hold a significant volume and range of information on the provision of and need for Gypsy/Traveller accommodation, consistent national data has not been published since the last Twice-Yearly Count of Gypsy/Travellers undertaken in 2009.
Study objectives and approach
2.7 The overarching aim of the study was to provide a comprehensive picture of site accommodation for Gypsy/Travellers and encampment activity across Scotland. This was to include current public and private site provision, encampment activity, applications for planning permission for private Gypsy/Traveller sites in Scotland, and an account of reasons for sites being refused planning permission. The study did not include Gypsy/Travellers in settled housing.
2.8 The study involved a number of distinct data collection and analysis strands:
- Collection of local authority and Registered Social Landlord data on current public Gypsy/Traveller sites.
- An audit of planning application information published via e-planning to identify applications relating to private Gypsy/Traveller sites, and collection of local authority data on planning applications for private Gypsy/Traveller sites not published via e-planning.
- Engagement with local authorities to gather intelligence on currently active private Gypsy/Traveller sites across Scotland, cross-referenced with planning application information.
- Collection of local authority data on Gypsy/Traveller unauthorised encampments over the last three years.
- Triangulation of the results of data collection strands with published information on Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland. This included the Scottish Housing Regulator’s 2018 publication Gypsy/Travellers’ sites in Scotland: An update, and reports of Twice Yearly Counts of Gypsy/Travellers up to 2009.
2.9 We are grateful to local authorities and landlords for their support in providing this considerable range of inputs to the study. The exercise was able to collate information on public and private Gypsy/Traveller site provision across all local authority areas, and data on encampment activity across 27 of 32 local authority areas.
2.10 The report has been able to provide a comprehensive account of locally held data on Gypsy/Traveller sites and encampments in Scotland, however, it should be noted that some data gaps or under-reporting may remain. Anecdotal feedback indicates that this is most likely to relate to private Gypsy/Traveller and encampment activity. For example, feedback suggests that the report provides a comprehensive account of the more substantial private sites, however, it is possible that some of the smaller or single pitch sites have gone unrecorded by local authorities. Local authority data on unauthorised encampment activity is also dependent on reporting of encampments by Council officers, other agencies and local communities. Feedback indicates that encampments in more remote rural areas or less ‘visible’ locations may go unreported.
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