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Gypsy Travellers

Gypsy Travellers are a recognised ethnic group who consider the travelling lifestyle part of their ethnic identity and culture. Most Gypsy Travellers in North Lanarkshire are settled in our communities having left their travelling lives, sometimes because of health problems or to access services like education.

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As a result of its central position in Scotland, North Lanarkshire has long been established as a traditional stopping place for Travellers. Its position in relation to the motorway network gives easy access to surrounding local authority areas in Glasgow, the Forth Valley, West Lothian, East Dumbartonshire and South Lanarkshire.

We have a Travelling People's Liaison Officer, whose role is to advise council services and other agencies on issues relating to Gypsy travellers and their welfare. The following questions are often asked.

Who are Travellers?

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 Welsh or English Gypsies as appropriate. Gypsies are recognised as a distinct ethnic group, so are covered by the Equality Act 2010. Romany Gypsies first arrived in Britain around 1500.
  • Scottish Gypsies/Travellers - have a long history in Scotland going back to the 12th Century. Different groups of Scottish Gypsies/Travellers may refer to themselves as Scottish Travellers or Scottish Gypsies, or as 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 Equality Act.
  • Showmen and Circus People (often referred to as Travelling Showpeople) People who move from place to place providing stalls, rides and services at fairs. Unlike the other travellers mentioned above Showmen are allowed to stop at the roadside as members of the Showmen's Guild.

Why do Travellers have a nomadic way of life?

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 travellers earn a living by providing services such as tree-cutting, tarmacadam and light building work. 

Are Gypsy Travellers an ethnic minority?

Gypsy Travellers have their own values, customs, lifestyle, tradition, culture and language. The Equality Act recognises Gypsy Travellers as a distinct ethnic group and places duties on local authorities to ensure that they take account of the needs of this group by advancing equality. The Scottish Government has produced an Action Plan to improve the lives of Gypsy Travellers.

About Travellers and services

What is the need for travelling people to be able to access health and social care services?

Long term limiting illness tends to be higher amongst the Gypsy Traveller population than the rest of the general population. Research has shown that the lifespan of Gypsy Travellers remains shorter than the settled community Access to and awareness of health and social care services remain important issues for Gypsy Travellers.

Can a travelling lifestyle impact on the education of Travellers' children?

It is reported that Gypsy Travellers have the lowest educational results of any ethnic minority group. Attendance and the uptake of secondary education are particular concerns. Our staff link with schools where traveller's children are attending.

 Do Gypsy Travellers suffer harassment and discrimination?

Travellers have not always been accepted by the community that are not travellers. Within Europe and the UK they have experienced a long history of racism and being treated as 'outsiders'. A place to stay in safety and without pressure of having to move on remains a major issue for Gypsy Travellers.  These are also prevalent issues for Gypsy Travellers living in mainstream housing. 

Do Gypsy Travellers settle in housing?

Research shows many Gypsy Travellers use mainstream housing as a winter base and that being housed doesn’t necessarily mean that Gypsy Travellers do not also have a traditional nomadic lifestyle.  Other factors such as health, age and education also influence Gypsy Travellers in their use of housing. Families have long connections with North Lanarkshire and many have now settled in the area - over 200 according to the last Census in 2011.

Page last updated:
04 Nov 2020

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