Amnesty International calls for Douglas Ross to apologise over gypsy remarks
Douglas Ross - credit: Scottish Parliament
Amnesty International has urged Douglas Ross to apologise after the Scottish Tory MP called for tougher enforcement against Gypsies and Travellers, with the human rights group describing his comments as “a terrible example that only serves to foster further discrimination and prejudice”.
The Moray MP came under fire from campaigners and opposition parties after saying that, if he was Prime Minister for the day, without any repercussions, he would introduce “tougher enforcement against Gypsies and Travellers”.
Responding to the comments, Amnesty International’s Scotland programme director Naomi McAuliffe told Holyrood: “When our elected leaders use this sort of blatantly partisan speech, they set a terrible example that only serves to foster further discrimination and prejudice.”
Meanwhile SNP MSP Christina McKelvie described the comments as “disgraceful”, saying they “shed further light on the true character of Ruth Davidson’s party”, while Green MSP John Finnie said Ross “chose to attack an already beleaguered minority, our gypsy travellers”.
But the Scottish Conservatives rejected Finnie’s criticism, with spokesperson describing them as a “typically misguided and sanctimonious attack from the Greens”.
Explaining his comments were in response to quick-fire questions, Ross said: “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.”
Naomi McAuliffe condemned the remarks.
She said: “It is time Douglas Ross MP apologised for his flippant, inflammatory comment about Scottish Gypsy Travellers – members of Parliament have a duty of care to all of their constituents – not just those they deem worthy of their concern.
“Everyone who lives in Moray, whether they are Scottish Gypsy Travellers, or the settled community, should treat each other with mutual respect. When our elected leaders use this sort of blatantly partisan speech, they set a terrible example that only serves to foster further discrimination and prejudice.”
Ross’s comments follow criticism of the party over its decision to reinstate two councillors who were suspended for making anti-Catholic and racist posts on Twitter.
Christina McKelvie said: “The gypsy traveller community are part of Scotland's rich cultural heritage and it speaks volumes that Douglas Ross should single out this minority group in the way that he has.
"But in some ways it is not remotely surprising, coming from a party which – under Ms Davidson – is showing, with every day that passes, that it openly embraces intolerance and prejudice rather than condemning it.
"This is the week in which the ugly reality of Ruth Davidson's Tories has been fully exposed. It is a party which offers a home to extremist views, turns a blind eye to prejudice and allows those who spout offensive nonsense to hold elected office.
“Ruth Davidson’s continued silence is utterly unsustainable – she should speak out and discipline Mr Ross, or tell us why she disagrees with Amnesty International.”