The Post Bag: Letters To Squall
Scottish Travelin’ Tales
Squall 10, Summer 1995, pg. 50.
The main news from Grampian is the same as everywhere; the CJA. Until last January, the council, the police and social services were answering enquiries about the effects of the Act by telling people that the Act didn’t apply in Scotland. Since then, the advice agencies have got a little more clued-up.
A ‘leaked’ document was doing the rounds early in the year, listing traveller’s sites in Scotland due for eviction under the Act. It was supposed to have been leaked from a ‘source’ in the police, but none of us have actually seen it yet. Glengarry was on the list, then Gorebridge, then us (despite not being on a site in the usual sense - we’re staying in trailers until we rebuild our house). We were told about the list shortly after hearing of a very violent eviction at Glengarry. Folk at Gorebridge have been visited by police strongly suggesting that it might be a good idea to move off while they could do it voluntarily. On being told that no-one had been given anything in black and white, one police officer pointed to his hat and said: “That’s the only black and white you’re getting from now on.”
Now that Grampian police have got round to acknowledging that the Act counts in Scotland, they’ve been doing the rounds of the gypsy sites, doing their best to misinform and terrify as many people as possible. They’ve been getting particularly nasty with the kids telling them that they’re getting evicted tonight, that the evictions will be done without notice now that the Act is in.
A lot of people are finding cottages or moving abroad. The biggest irony is the amount of people going to Spain - in 1990 a representative of the Gypsy Council said how much they were worried about forcibly settled Spanish Gypsys coming over here after 1992 (when Spain joined the EU) and getting travellers a bad name.
Regarding the CJA monitoring article in SQUALL 9, if you’re going to report an incident with the police you should get the officer’s name(s) as well as a comprehensive description. People reporting incidents, even from ‘official’ agencies, have been told that the officer wasn’t on duty, or was in the station at the time in question. This probably won’t surprise most people, but there’s always someone who still believes that the police are there as public servants, and will help and protect any member of the public who asks for it. Bear in mind, if you’re thinking of reporting something, that you’ll need a lot of support to see a complaint through and that the less ‘respectable’ you are, the less likely you are to get proper outcome. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t complain. The best thing for people to do is to stick together, support and defend each other so that you’re less likely to be in a situation where you can get picked off on your own or in a small group. The more witnesses, the less likely you are to get a trashing.
Most important, and regardless of where you stand in the fluffy vs spikey debate, think for yourself. Advice is good, but becoming someone else’s martyr, or keeping quiet because someone told you to isn’t being true to yourself and then the whole point of the Act has succeeded. Be aware that there’s a lot of misinformation out there.
So let’s look after ourselves and each other. It’s only a few centuries since it was illegal to paint your face black and run through the King’s woods (which was what people did to put the hounds off the hunt. The proles were stopped from hunting in the forests, got hungry, and so frightened the deer, thus making a bad law unworkable). Once the King couldn’t enjoy his hunting people were allowed to get food from the woods again without risking execution. So we don’t have to put up with the CJA (or anything else for that matter).