Published: 02/09/2017 06:00 - Updated: 01/09/2017 14:48

Trainspotting author blasts Tory voters over MP travellers' row

Written byAlistair Whitfield

TRAINSPOTTING author Irvine Welsh has labelled supporters of Douglas Ross as “mutants” following the Moray MP’s controversial statement about travellers.

Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh was critical of Moray Tory voters
Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh was critical of Moray Tory voters

Mr Ross hit the national headlines this week after saying that his priority, if he was Prime Minister for a day, would be “tougher enforcement against gypsy travellers”.

Amnesty International was just one of several organisations which subsequently called on Mr Ross to apologise.

In addition, the MP was savaged online by novelist Welsh.

Using typically colourful language, the Trainspotting author stated: “Which ***** voted that ******* amoeba to represent them? ******* mutants.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Football Association has also launched its own investigation into the affair. Mr Ross is a top-level linesman who regularly officiates at Scottish Premiership games.

Lambasting his fellow politician, MSP Richard Lochhead stated that Mr Ross had “embarrassed Moray”.

Mr Lochhead said: “Douglas Ross’s choice of priority if he was Prime Minister for a day was shocking.

“It was very revealing that he picked on a minority. The fact this was the first thing that came to mind when he was asked the question speaks volumes about his politics and personal beliefs. His half-hearted apology only made matters worse as he did not address the divisive impact of his remarks or show humility.

“He could have chosen tackling poverty, promoting equality, improving incomes for older people or a host of other issues that any world leader might want to choose.

“His targeting of a minority by someone in his privileged and prominent position is unacceptable and has attracted widespread condemnation from across Moray and the UK. He has embarrassed Moray.

“Our Westminster MP has a duty to use his influence and privileged platform to promote tolerance and understanding, not target minorities in his own constituency or anywhere.

“The one message I have heard time and time again is that although some people out there will of course share his view that this is the top priority for the Prime Minister, or even our local MP, he does not speak for many in Moray.

“Gypsy and travelling communities have been offended by his remarks that only serve to reinforce prejudice. I have also been contacted by constituents whose forebears were travelling people, and been told how there are many successful business people in Moray with roots in the travelling community.

“They tell me they feel stigmatised and they are very angry with Mr Ross.

“The issue of travellers sites has been a complex one for Moray Council. Unlike other areas we still have no authorised sites.

“But the solution is clearly to enter in dialogue with the travelling community and other communities, and not to display prejudice and publicly single out gypsies and the travelling community in such a divisive way.

“It’s the easiest thing in life to simplify complex issues and to play to the gallery to seek popularity, but often the result is more ill-feeling in our communities and families feeling persecuted. History teaches us to avoid that.

“Mr Ross should think about the impact his comments have had on children in our schools from such communities and how they must feel.

“I do hope that Douglas learns from this and goes out of his way to educate himself on the need for tolerance and reaching out to everyone in our society and everyone that he represents.”

“Thousands of people in Moray have connections with the travelling community - friends or relatives or grandparents – he has offended them all.”

Mr Ross made his remark in a quick-fire online interview, which can be viewed on YouTube at #MeetTheMPs.

Clarifying his position later, Mr Ross stated that he was referring to those travellers who “flout local planning procedures with illegal encampments as we have seen in Moray many times”.

Speaking to the Northern Scot in the wake of the controversy, Mr Ross stated: “It was the only serious question in a light-hearted eight-minute interview, which ranged from what is my favourite karaoke song to what would I do if I was stuck in a lift with Jeremy Corbyn.

“I apologise for the way I put it across. Obviously, there are far more important issues which I would want to address first if was Prime Minister.

“But the fact remains there is still a perception amongst parts of the settled community that travellers are allowed to do what the settled community would not be allowed to do.

“I believe that tackling the behaviour of the minority who flout the regulations would help the image of the whole travelling community.

“I’ve had criticism from people who don’t think I should have said what I did. I understand their point of view and I apologise for making the remarks in the way that I did.

“The football association has also received a complaint so it is duty bound to follow that through.

“However, I’ve also had a lot of support from local people as well during this past week. This is a long-running issue here in Moray and I believe it should be open for discussion.

“The local community in Moray has been left with several large clean-up bills in the past following illegal encampments.”

Mr Ross also cited a case within Moray where planning permission had originally been refused on a piece of land because it was green belt.

The owner then sold it to a travelling family for them to graze their horses.

The family subsequently moved several chalets and caravans onto the site and installed an electric generator.

After five years of legal toing and froing, Moray Council granted planning permission in June last year.

The family made the case during the ongoing legal wrangling that, unlike some local authorities in Scotland, Moray does not have a designated place for travellers to stay.

Moray has not had a designated area since 2008, when a hundred police officers raided the Chanonry Caravan site in Elgin.

Four men were subsequently jailed for a combined total of 24 years for being involved in the supply of class A drugs.

Other travellers were said to have avoided the site after it became embroiled in organised crime.

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