Defining ethnicity in a cultural and socio-legal context : the case of Scottish gypsy-travellers

Clark, Colin (2006) Defining ethnicity in a cultural and socio-legal context : the case of Scottish gypsy-travellers. Scottish Affairs, 54 (Winter). pp. 39-67. ISSN 0966-0356

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Scottish Gypsy/Travellers are 'to be regarded' as an ethnic group in Scotland by both the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Executive until a test case in a court of law clarifies matters. Since 2000-01 this fact has not been contested in any meaningful way and it is now the case that Gypsy/Traveller children, if they choose, can tick their own box in school Census counts. It logically follows from this that they can, in principle, experience racial discrimination. As it stands Scottish Gypsy/Travellers are undoubtedly as much an 'ethnic group' as any other which is currently protected by the Race Relations Act 1976 (as amended 2000) despite the fact that at the moment they generally lack the substantive protection of the Act in the Scottish context. It follows that Scottish Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland or Britain can experience racial discrimination which is not dissimilar to that experienced by all the minority ethnic groups currently protected by race relations legislation, including English Gypsies and Irish Travellers. Whether they do experience racism is, of course, a matter for the police and courts to address in the individual cases that occur rather than any academic analysis. The next stage of the process will, eventually, see a test case come before the Scottish courts and complete its journey through the legal system. Only when this happens will the socio-legal status of Scottish Gypsy/Traveller ethnicity be firmly decided.