Council leader calls for public support over travellers

The latest travellers' camp at Forfar Loch Country Park photographed on Monday morning.
The latest travellers' camp at Forfar Loch Country Park photographed on Monday morning.

The leader of Angus Council has called on the local community to join together and to report any illegal activity in relation to travellers’ camps in the area.

Local residents have contacted the ‘Dispatch and Herald’ through our letters pages and on Facebook in recent weeks to vent their frustration over the number of camps in the Forfar and Kirriemuir areas, and to call on the local authority to do something.

On Friday one frustrated resident contacted us to say a group of travellers had moved from one site on the south side of Forfar loch to another on the north side.

He said: “They are playing ‘cat and mouse’ with the council and are thumbing their noses at the local authority.”

Alan Shepherd posted on Facebook: “Travelling fraternity taking the mickey moving from one side of the loch to the other, rather galling that the councillors appear to be saying and doing nothing about it.

“Forfar people are tired and sick of them - move them once and for all, get your finger out, blight on Forfar.”

Another Kirriemuir resident contacted us via email to complain about the businesses being run by the travellers and called on his fellow residents not to support these ventures (see our letters on page 24).

When contacted on Monday, Angus Councillor Iain Gaul, leader of the administration, was at pains to point out the local authority is adhering to the “constraints” of current legislation.

He too urged local residents not to be persuaded by workmen touting for business on their doorstep and to report any illegal or antisocial activity to Police Scotland.

Whilst he acknowledged local residents are dismayed at the apparent lack of action being taken against those setting up camps in and around Forfar, Mr Gaul pointed out legislation is in place which prohibits travellers being harassed.

He said: “Angus Council has got to comply with legislation. The travellers are a recognised ethnic minority group. That means they should not be harassed, hounded etc. by those who do not accept their lifestyle. We don’t want anybody hounded because they are slightly different from somebody else.

“If these people live within our society and live within our laws, given that they are a protected ethnic minority and part of their lifestyle is to draw off the main road and camp, we can accept that.

“But that is where things then start to go wrong because what they then do is they then abuse that privilege.

“What we have difficulty accepting is what they leave behind. They leave rubbish, excrement, everything you can imagine that costs hundreds, if not thousands of pounds every time they descend on an area.

“Thereafter we have got a problem as they do not comply with what you, I and others perceive to be a reasonable way of behaving. They are abusing the laws that we live by, they do not accept what we live by.”

He urged the local community to get on board and to contact Police Scotland as soon as they see any illegal or antisocial behaviour, and he made a plea to local residents not to use the services being offered.

He continued: “If you see something wrong then come forward and make a statement. When the travellers are on council ground we go through the legal process to move them on.

“If people in this area did not take advantage of the services the travellers offered then they wouldn’t come here. They are offering to tar or pave driveways; if people stopped employing them they would stop coming here as they are coming here for work. If somebody offers you something cheap, other people are paying the cost - it’s another form of crime.

“Do not employ these people, do not feed them or give them the money that they want.

“If there is not a market for them they will not come. If there is no income for them they will not stay here.”

He said it is the responsibilty of everyone, not just the council, to deal with the situation and report any issue with Police Scotland, giving detailed descriptions to ensure something can be done to tackle any criminal activity.

At the time of going to press on Tuesday (yesterday) a spokeswoman for Angus Council said: “We are aware of the encampment at Forfar Loch Country Park and will continue to monitor the situation in line with our policies and procedures.”