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Travelling People (Crown Office Attitude)

Volume 81: debated on Wednesday 19 June 1985

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asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland if he will undertake a review of the Crown Office attitude to complaints against travelling people, and invite representations from local authorities, the police and public

The policy in relation to complaints of unlawful encampment is reviewed from time to time and has recently been revised to link toleration to achievement by local authorities at district level of the provision of pitch targets. As I informed my hon. Friend on 31 October 1984, complaints against travelling people of other breaches of the law are normally dealt with by the police and procurators fiscal in the normal way.

Accepting that the Scottish Office as well as the Law Officers have an important responsibility in this matter, does my hon. and learned Friend agree that if all travelling people were well behaved and good neighbours there would be very little problem in their finding sites? Does he further agree that during the past year or so there have been examples of incidents and behaviour which entitle us to consider bringing to an end the quite extraordinary privileges which travelling people have in being able to settle anywhere in encampments regardless of planning considerations, environmental health and property ownership, and free of rent and rates?

As I have said before, and wish to emphasise again, the toleration policy extends only to unlawful encampment and does not in any way extend to other breaches of the law. The travelling people, as much as anyone else, are under the ordinary obligation to ensure that they observe the law of Scotland. My hon. Friend will also be aware that where there are large, random groups moving around the country in a nontraditional pattern the toleration policy observed in the past does not apply.

In this year of youth, is it not quite disgraceful that many youngsters are forced to be regarded as travelling people simply because they are looking for jobs? Is not the DHSS being encouraged to lean on them and to make it intolerable for them to exist as human beings? Is it not true that these youngsters—the new travelling people — deserve to be protected? They deserve basic rights, just like anyone else — just like tinkers, and I do not knock tinkers by any means. If this Government lead in anything, will they come forward—dare I ask?—with a youth charter to support and protect those youngsters who form a lost generation in Scotland today?

If the hon. Gentleman has a point, it is certainly nothing to do with the problem that we have in Scotland of trying to accommodate traditional travelling people, who have encampments in various areas. I would have thought that those of us who are aware of the problem would want to ensure that the provision of sites throughout Scotland for travelling people were established. What the hon. Gentleman raises has nothing to do with that very real difficulty.