A view from the Bridge

ONE thing certain to get the hackles up in a community is unauthorised traveller encampments springing up.

Here in the North-east it’s a seasonal problem in many areas with no sign of any hard and fast solution.

Ellon, in particular, has been a popular halting station for the travelling community this summer with their arrival attracting a storm of protest from various quarters.

I recall also people in Stonehaven in recent years being up in arms when the travellers came calling to the seaside town.

However, a report published earlier this week by a powerful group of MSPs on attitudes to the travelling community makes unpleasant reading. The politicians have accused local authorities across Scotland of “appalling” discrimination as travellers try to access council services and medical care.

Their findings show most council-run gypsy traveller campsites are located in “undesirable and unsafe locations” next to landfill sites, rubbish dumps and electricity pylons.

The report also says people are often forced to wait year for the authorities to help them look after disabled and elderly family members.

The politicians admitted that one of the most alarming pieces of evidence they had collated during their investigation was that travellers had been turned away from what was supposed to be a free and universal health service. Disturbing indeed.

Earlier this year, extra cash was allocated to Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Councils to help them resolve disputes between travellers and the local community following tensions arising from illegal encampments.

Officials have been trying to identify new traveller sites, with one peotential site on private land near Stonehaven attracting Scottish Government funding of £37,000.

However, the developer pulled out following pressure from people who did not want the site used for a travellers’ camp.

The gypsy traveller population in Scotland is estimated to be around 15,000, so the problem of illicit camps is not one which is readily going to go away.

What is clear is that we as a society need to do much more to address a culture and lifestyle which continues to be handed down from generation to generation.