Over to you - councillor seeks traveller 
policy review

A site off Ellon's Golf Road has been identified as a possible traveller stopover.
A site off Ellon's Golf Road has been identified as a possible traveller stopover.

An Ellon councillor is calling on the Scottish Government to take responsibility for determining traveller sites.

Gillian Owen (pictured) believes local representatives are in the firing line as the row over selecting locations intensifies.

The Scottish Government, if it wants such sites, must act and use its authority

Councillor Gillian Owen Ellon and District

She claims they can’t reach an informed decision on the controversial issue without facing the anger of the local community, or criticism from Holyrood ministers.

Mrs Owen has now urged social justice and communities secretary Alex Neil to review the policy.

Ellon is one of four sites under consideration in Aberdeenshire as possible stopover halts for travellers.

Site visits have been arranged and the feedback is due to be discussed at a meeting of Aberdeenshire Council’s Gypsy Traveller Sub-Committee later in the year.

The Golf Road location has already faced fierce local criticism and concerns were discussed at a recent meeting of Ellon Community Council.

Mrs Owen has been a strong critic of travellers pitching up in the town over the years, particularly of the debris left behind.

But she maintains the tone of exchanges following the community council debate is “creating tensions and is damaging to all concerned”.

The councillor has written to Mr Neil describing her “grave concern” at the damage the issue is causing to the Ellon community and more widely.

She states: “We currently do not have a local transit site and as such the Police are reluctant to take action as per the Scottish Government’s directives, hence the community has been faced with serious levels of disruption and damage.

“This experience does not lead to a receptive attitude locally and there is constant opposition to the provision of a site.

“The point has been made clearly on a number of occasions that without such a local site the Police will only act in extreme circumstances and civil action must be taken to remove travellers. But this seems to carry no weight in arguments on this issue.”

Mrs Owen has formally asked the Scottish Government to step in to deal with the issue at a national level.

Earlier this year she sought an apology from Mr Neil after he accused councils of needing education on the human rights of the travelling community.

Her letter continues: “I am now firmly of the opinion local representatives cannot make an informed judgment without suffering either the wrath of their local community, or the accusation by the Scottish Government of being ‘unenlightened’.

“The Scottish Government must review their policy on this issue because you cannot put local representatives in this position of having to battle their communities, or putting communities in a position where they are battling each other.

“The Scottish Government, if it wants such sites, must act and use its authority.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said decisions on traveller sites were based made at local level, adding: “The Scottish Government has worked closely with the North-east councils in the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Gypsy/Traveller Issues Working Party.

“We have also provided more than £280,000 since 2010 to assist Aberdeen City Council with improving its existing Gypsy/Traveller site.

“Decisions about gypsy/traveller sites are best made at local level, by those with local knowledge and accountability. Local authorities have a legal responsibility to identify the accommodation needs of those in their area, including the needs of gypsy/travellers, and consider how best to meet those needs.”