About gypsies and travellers in general

Basic information about gypsies and travellers

Q. Who are gypsies and travellers?

A. Gypsies and travellers' refers to different cultures and traditions. The groups we have most contact with include:

Gypsies - refers to Romany gypsies of English or Welsh heritage. Some gypsies do prefer to be known as English or Welsh gypsies as appropriate. Gypsies are recognised as a distinct ethnic group, so are covered by Race Relations Act legislation. Romany gypsies first arrived in Britain around 1500.

Scottish gypsies and travellers - have a long history in Scotland going back to the 12 century. Different groups of Scottish gypsies and travellers may refer to themselves as Scottish gypsies, Scottish travellers or nawkens or nachins.

Irish travellers - travellers with Irish heritage. Irish travellers do not share the same culture as gypsies and are recognised as a separate ethnic group, again covered by the Race Relations Act legislation covering Northern Ireland.

Showmen and circus people (often referred to as travelling show people) - People who move from place to place providing stalls, rides and services at fairs. Unlike the other travelling people mentioned above showmen are allowed to stop at the roadside as members of the showmen's guild. However unlike other travelling people they do not see themselves as having a separate minority ethnic identity.

Q. Why do gypsies and travellers have a nomadic way of life?

A. Their nomadic way of life was based around travelling to look for work, and also because they were not always made welcome where they stopped. Nowadays gypsies and travellers earn a living by providing services such as tree-cutting, tarmacadam and light building work.

Q. Are gypsies and travellers an ethnic minority?

A. Gypsies and travellers have their own values, customs, lifestyle, tradition, culture and language. The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 recognises gypsies and travellers as a distinct ethnic group and places duties on local authorities to ensure that they take account of the needs of this group when carrying out equality impact assessments and promoting equality of opportunity. The Scottish Executive advised that "We take gypsies and travellers views into account in delivering our services and we are responsive to their needs".

Q. Are the number of gypsies and travellers increasing in North Lanarkshire?

A. Stirling University collects and collates information about Scotland's gypsies and travelling community. The figures show seasonal variations of visits to North Lanarkshire with most number predominantly coming throughout the summer period. Whilst both summer and winter populations show a decline in relation to the rest of Scotland, there has been an increase in unauthorised encampments in North Lanarkshire. Gypsies and travellers from Essex, Birmingham and the Inverness area have recently stayed in North Lanarkshire.

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