A new Scottish Tory MP has been criticised for attacking Gypsy and Traveller communities in an interview with Core Politics, released today.
Asked what he would prioritise if he were prime minister for a day, the new Moray MP Douglas Ross said:
“Tougher enforcement against Gypsies and Travellers”.
Speaking to openDemocracy, Chris Smith from the Travellers’ Times said:
“Homelessness, Brexit and Terrorism, Mr Douglas Ross could have chosen any of these issues to deal with. Instead he chose to go with “Tougher enforcement against Gypsies and Travellers” the UK’s largest indigenousness ethnic group, some of whom will be his constituents. Blatant displays of antigypsyism by those meant to protect our rights only serves to contribute to the high levels of intolerance and racism directed towards Gypsies and Travellers in the UK today.
“This is a shame as the Scottish Government, led by MSPs in the Scottish National Party, is starting to make inroads into the institutional racism and lack of places to stop faced by many Scottish Travellers in Mr Ross’ own back yard. Scottish Travellers now know who not to vote for.”
Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International's Scotland Programme Director, said
“Douglas Ross’ decision to say in an interview if he was PM for one day he would focus on ‘tougher enforcement against Gypsy Travellers’ is the sort of inflammatory language that fuels continuing prejudice against the Scottish Gypsy Traveller community, creating another barrier for people wishing to access basic services such as healthcare and education. Douglas Ross also said his aim as an MP was to ensure ‘as good a deal as possible for the people of Moray’ – we really should not have to remind him that Scottish Gypsy Travellers living his constituency also deserve representation and respect.”
Asked what he meant by his comments, Mr Ross said:
“It was a quick-fire question and answer session and my answer was based on what I was dealing with at the time.”
“Illegal and unauthorised gypsy traveller encampments are a significant problem in Moray with the settled community continually complaining that gypsy travellers receive preferential treatment whether it is with regard to planning decisions or just the way they take over a piece of land or lay by and then often leave it in a significant mess which has to be cleaned up at a cost to the local tax payer.”
Around half a million Gypsies and Travellers were murdered in the Nazi holocaust, which the community calls the Porajmos, and traveller communities still face brutal opression across Europe, as openDemocracy reported from Montenegro earlier this week.