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Moray to take part in negotiated stopping place pilot

By Sarah Rollo

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MORAY Council has agreed to take part in a pilot project that will allow Gypsy/Travellers to stop for short periods at negotiated sites.

The scheme, which has been successfully implemented in Leeds, involves open dialogue and negotiation between the council and Gypsy/Travellers who pass through the area.

Its purpose is to enable Gypsy/Travellers to stay for an agreed limited period of time at a stopping place, as long as they stick to a code of conduct.

Under the new pilot, Moray Council will work with researchers and the Gypsy/Traveller community to map out traditional stopping places and travelling routes, to consider if it would be practical to re-open them.

This would allow the council to assess the suitability of sites in Moray as potential stopping places.

Moray Council's communities committee has agreed to take part in a national Gypsy/Traveller negotiated stopping places pilot.
Moray Council's communities committee has agreed to take part in a national Gypsy/Traveller negotiated stopping places pilot.

East Ayrshire, Perth and Kinross, West Dunbartonshire and Highland are also expected to take part in the pilot, which is being spearheaded by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) in partnership with the Scottish Government.

In papers before the authority's communities committee this morning, acting head of housing and property Graeme Davidson said: "Negotiated stopping can offer potential benefits to both the settled and travelling communities by reducing the number of ‘unauthorised’ encampments at unsuitable locations, while still supporting the preservation of the Gypsy/Traveller culture. This approach enables local authorities, where appropriate, to move Gypsy Travellers to a negotiated stopping place if there is suitable space available.

"Studies of the Leeds model have reported benefits such as cost savings in relation to moving on unauthorised encampments, better community cohesion by breaking down negative stereotypes, reduced instances of anti-social behaviour and better access to services, such as education and health, for Gypsy Travellers."

As it stands, Moray does not formally provide halting or stopping places for Gypsy/Travellers, with the council instead focusing on the management of unauthorised encampments.

Councillor Paula Coy (Elgin City South) described that as a source of embarrassment and urged the committee to wholeheartedly get behind the scheme.

There were 57 such encampments in 2013/14 but the number has significantly reduced in recent years with 20 in 2017/18 and 25 in 2018/19. To date there have been 26 in 2019/20.

The scheme, which aims to improve the lives of Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland and address inequalities, follows the publication of the Scottish Government and COSLA joint action plan, Improving the lives of Gypsy/Travellers: 2019-2021.

It commits both national and local government to protect and promote the human rights of Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland, to tackle the discrimination and inequalities they face and to ensure their needs are met on an equal basis with other communities.

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