Tory MP criticised for ‘gypsy traveller’ comments

Scottish Conservative Douglas Ross fuelled accusations of racism within the party.

A Tory politican has said if he were Prime Minister for a day he would introduce “tougher enforcement against gypsy travellers.”

The comment – made by Moray MP Douglas Ross in an online interview – has been condemned by traveller organisations and by the Scottish Greens, who described it as an attack on an “already beleaguered minority”.

John Finnie MSP, Justice spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said:

“Douglas Ross was given an open goal, be PM and sort anything you want.

“He didn’t choose improving health, education or housing, he didn’t seek to eradicate poverty, work for a better planet or peace.

“Rather he chose to attack an already beleaguered minority, our Gypsy Travellers.”

News site Traveller Times, which exists to highlight issues within gypsy and traveller communities, also condemned the comments.

A spokesperson said:

“Blatant displays of anti-gypsyism by those meant to protect our rights only serves to contribute to the high levels of intolerance and racism directed towards Gypsies and Travellers in society.

“This is a shame as the Scottish government, led by MSPs in the Scottish National Party, is starting to make inroads into the institutional racism and lack of places to stop faced by many Scottish Travellers in Mr Ross’ own back yard.

“Scottish Travellers now know who not to vote for.“

Ross did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Left Foot Forward, but he addressed the criticism in a statement sent to some media outlets, including the Scotsman.

He said the issue had been on his mind at the time of the interview, adding:

“Illegal and unauthorised gypsy traveller encampments are a significant problem in Moray with the settled community continually complaining that gypsy travellers receive preferential treatment whether it is with regard to planning decisions or just the way they take over a piece of land or lay by and then often leave it in a significant mess which has to be cleaned up at a cost to the local tax payer.”

But Finnie said Ross should have known better. The comment is inexcusable, the spokesman said:

“Douglas Ross is a former Justice Spokesperson for his Party and should know full well the discrimination faced by the Gypsy/Traveller community.

“Of course rather than defend that community Ross joins in the ignorant attacks they face on a daily basis.

“Douglas Ross should remember that he represents all of Moray’s constituents not simply those who share his depressingly narrow outlook on the world.”

In the interview, posted to Youtube, Ross also said he would like to Prime Minister one day, because he thinks “everyone that comes into politics should have aspirations to reach the very top.”

His gypsy traveller comments follow condemnation of the Tories by the Greens earlier this week after two Conservative councillors suspended for online abuse and racist comments were readmitted to Ruth Davidson’s party.

Finnie suggested the party were headed down a dark path. He said:

“Much like Donald Trump seemed emboldened the more outrageous he became, so Scotland’s Conservatives, whose ranks boast racists and sectarian bigots, keep up the nastiness.”

Ross’ comment was particularly striking because it came amidst otherwise lighthearted chat. He admitted to liking Theresa May more than David Cameron in the quickfire questioning, and emphasised what a fan he is of noughties girl band Atomic Kitten, before suddenly dropping the comment about travellers without explanation.

Charlotte England is a freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

3 Responses to “Tory MP criticised for ‘gypsy traveller’ comments”

  1. LordBlagger

    When will you get it?

    He’s attacked the behavior.

    The owner of an Indian restaurant in Cromer who had to force a large group of travellers out of his business on Saturday night has accused the police of looking on while his family had to deal with dozens of people stealing drinks.

    Owner Nashim Uddin said a crowd of around 40 travellers joined a small group which was already in the Masala Twist on Prince of Wales Road.

    But when he tried to get them to leave for disturbing other customers they started taking drinks.

    He said, along with his nephew Jamil Ahmed and wife Ayrun Nessa-Uddin, they began pushing them out and trying to get the drinks back off them while police stood back and watched.

    “Police could have done a lot more,” he said. “It is not good enough.”


    So what is it? Racist not to help the restaurant owner, he’s not “British”?

    Or is it another Rotherham? You can’t investigate him the criminals are “Asian” and its cultural, and in any case the victims are slags.

    Take your pick.

  2. Alasdair Macdonald

    LordBlagger – perhaps your handle is revelatory of your actual attitude – the issue is not that the reported conduct of the groups was unacceptable – it was, if reports are accurate – it is the fact that the comment from the MP was implying that unacceptable conduct is a feature of a particular ethnic, religious, social, etc. group. This is what defines ‘racism’.

    Individual Scottish, Pakistani, Chinese, Christian, white, female, transgender, etc, people are all capable of egregious acts, but every person who is a member of one of these groups is not equally culpable. The present inhabitants of Bristol are not responsible for the city’s slaving past. Most of the people of Atlanta, Georgia are not members of supporters of the KKK.

    The Conservative MP was racist in his comments.

    For me to extrapolate this to ‘every Conservative MP is racist’ would be wholly unjustified.

    The fact that BBC Scotland has, some days after Mr Ross’s comment was widely known, now reported it very briefly is part of a pattern of bias shown by BBC Scotland. This website, under its previous editor, was equally guilty with its uncritical support of the current leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Ms Ruth Davidson.

  3. Dave Roberts

    Lord Blagger the PC crowd will never accept that Gypsies do any wrong. They terrorised a Bangladeseshi and now he is a racist. Disgusting.

Leave a Reply