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Action demanded over travellers' camps in Inverness

By Nick Humphreys

David McGrath - demanded crackdown on travellers.
David McGrath - demanded crackdown on travellers.

AN Inverness community council chairman has demanded a crackdown on travellers before someone gets killed after an encampment forced pedestrians and cyclists into a busy road.

The group of travellers have now moved on after pitching up at the pavement and cycle path next to Smithton roundabout on the A96 on Monday.

It isn’t yet known where the group have moved on to.

But David McGrath, Smithton and Culloden Community Council chairman, blasted police and the Highland Council for not doing more to get them moved quicker – and also of not finding a way of stopping them pitching up in the first place.

Travellers have made camps at Daviot Wood, Carse Industrial Estate, Bught Park near Ness Islands, Inverness Retail Park, Charleston Academy and Dalneigh in the past couple of years.

Mr McGrath said: “We’re getting fed up of them, and fed up of the council for ignoring their statutory obligation.

“But they won’t wake up and do anything until someone gets hurt or killed and the finger gets pointed at them.

“The travellers forced open the gate which was padlocked, and parked up on the Tarmac footpath – forcing all the pedestrians and cyclists to go across the busy road by the A96 roundabout, which is extremely dangerous.

“I phoned the Highland Council and the police.

“The police said that they couldn’t do anything until they do something illegal.

“I told them that they’d forced the gate open and were parking on a public footpath, which are surely both crimes, but all the police said was ‘but, but, but’ – the usual rubbish.

“It seems that if you’re a traveller you can do what you like, but if you’re not you get arrested and locked up.

“The Highland Council have been wasting money on River Ness art schemes and the £8.5 million Torvean Golf Club, but can’t address the issue of travellers, which comes up every year when the weather improves.

“If the council provided them with somewhere to go, they could then bring in a local by-law to stop them parking up wherever they liked.

“These travellers don’t live by the gypsy code – proper gypsies clean up after themselves so you wouldn’t even know they’d been there.”

Highland Council has plans for temporary sites for travellers at Torvean Quarry and the former Longman landfill in a bid to stop groups pitching up where they’re not wanted.

But no progress has been made with either initiative yet.

A Police Scotland spokesman said that the land occupied this week was maintained by Bear Scotland and owned by Transport Scotland and eviction proceedings were a matter for them to pursue.

He added: “It should be noted that officers are currently investigating a report of a breach of road traffic legislation.

“Police are in contact with partner agencies and continue to work together in line with the Local Authority’s Gypsies and Travellers Policy.

“Unless there are criminal or road traffic offences being committed the police are limited in their approach. Police Scotland do, however, take a positive approach to engaging with members of the travelling community to ensure their presence does not impact unduly on others. This is always carried out in partnership with the Highland Council and, in this case, Bear Scotland.

“As part of a multi-agency approach to managing an encampment of this size, Police Scotland will take proportionate action following any reported criminal activity or road traffic offences.”

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