In the 2011 census, 4,200 people identified as "white: Gypsy/Traveller" – but organisations that work with the community believe the number for ethnic
Gypsy/Travellers is closer to 15,000-20,000 people. For Travelling Showpeople, the estimate becomes harder as their social identity was historically defined by their occupation, and changes to the way census data was recorded may have impacted on counts of Travelling Showpeople. This means that provision of sites and yards could be based on artificially low numbers as it is difficult to determine the true population size.
Scottish Gypsy/Travellers were more likely to live in overcrowded accommodation and more likely to have no central heating than the overall population. Compared to 21% of the overall population, 40% of Gypsy/Travellers lived in social rented accommodation. The data show that current housing standards for many Gypsy/Travellers are inadequate, with 24% living in overcrowded accommodation compared to 9% of the whole population.
Previous census data does not accurately reflect the housing circumstances that Travelling Showpeople currently face however, the community are recognised as a distinct category in the recent 2021 Scottish Census survey. Academic research on Showpeople in England states that, “while Travelling Showpeople have previously emphasised self-sufficiency, contemporary Showpeople are increasingly aware that they require assistance – both in terms of identifying land and the planning process, but also in some cases financial assistance – in order to ensure that their accommodation needs are addressed.”
A definition of the community for the Evidence Report would allow planning authorities to better identify Gypsies and Travellers in their area, to help inform and fulfil their housing needs. This is why we are proposing a definition that is inclusive. While the data used above is only reflective of 2011 demographics, it serves as our most up-to-date data on the community. It highlights the unique demographics of this community and the challenges they face within the housing system.
The importance of family
Some Scottish Gypsies and Travellers share many cultural features, such as an emphasis on family, preference for self-employment, and a nomadic or cultural lifestyle. Privacy is important in the Romany Gypsy and Scottish Traveller communities, which is why adult family members may need separate accommodation. They have many behavioural codes relating to eating, laundry, family relations and much more. It is understood that certain families will not live with others.
Many Scottish Gypsies and Travelling of all communities still travel and/or live together as extended family units. This close-knit community provides support, companionship and protection for the Gypsy and Traveller population. This is not dependent on living a transient lifestyle. Their living environment usually accommodates extended family.
The author Martyn Bennett summarised the lifestyle of ScottishGypsy/Travellers in his article as following:
“Today, the identity of Gypsy/Travellers can take many forms: some families are constantly on the road, some only travel for part of the year and others
live in 'bricks and mortar' houses. Sadly, some were even taken away from their own families in an attempt to assimilate Gypsy/Travellers into mainstream culture and destroy their community. However, regardless of lifestyle and upbringing, members of the Gypsy/Traveller community share a strong sense of cultural identity - which continues to thrive through traditional crafts and fairs, and via the oral mediums of storytelling and music.”
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