COSLA has today launched a national pilot of the ‘negotiated stopping’ model for working with Gypsy/Travellers who are stopping on informal or roadside encampments across Scotland.
The pilot will facilitate improved communication between local authorities and communities and see changes to the way in which Gypsy/Travellers are supported to access temporary land and facilities such as toilets, water and waste removal as well as essential services including health and education.
The initiative will follow existing national guidance on managing encampments and recently introduced Covid-19 guidelines which advise councils to provide services to people who are staying on roadside camps and to meet the needs of vulnerable groups including children and older people. Councils often face difficulties enacting local policies due to disputes over land, challenges in procuring services and local opposition to the locations of camps.
East Ayrshire, Moray and Perth and Kinross Councils will all be formally piloting the new approaches in their areas, which were developed in Leeds and provide practical ways that local authorities, the police, health services and other agencies can provide safe facilities. It has shown to strengthen community relations and improve the efficiency of services.
The approach was introduced to Scotland by Gypsy/Traveller activists, including the campaigner Davie Donaldson to improve understanding of Gypsy/Traveller culture and achieve better treatment and access to rights. As part of the pilot, councils from across Scotland will also be encouraged to work with COSLA to strengthen local policies as part of their broader commitment to the national action plan, ‘Improving the Lives of Gypsy/Travellers 2019-21.’
Councillor Elena Whitham, COSLA Housing Spokesperson said: “Our Gypsy/Traveller communities have a long and rich history of travelling within Scotland and are a valued part of our local places, shared history and diversity. The pilot will help us to work better with families through the public health crisis and find out how we can build stronger relationships across our communities, design improved services and make best use of public money.
Christina McKelvie MSP, Minister for Older People and Equalities said: “This pilot will help local authorities and Gypsy/Traveller communities to work together to allow access to temporary land, essential facilities and services such as health, education and helping Gypsy/Travellers access their right to travel. This is important progress in our work with Local Government to deliver on our Action Plan to improve the lives of Gypsy/Travellers across Scotland.
“Throughout this pandemic, the needs of vulnerable groups including children and older people have been our priority so I am pleased to see this being launched today.”