ALBA supports calls for Government apology for post-war "Tinker Experiment"

ALBA Party’s National Executive Committee has given its support towards calls for an official Government apology for a controversial post-war act. 

The so called "Tinker Experiment" saw members of the travelling community placed in specially provided huts, geographically detached from the rest of society, in a bid to break them into joining the rest of the population and effectively kill off their culture.

Members of the travelling community have been campaigning for an official apology from the Scottish Government. Members of the community provided an educational awareness session of their campaign at the last meeting of Alba Party’s National Council. 

The Tinker Experiment began just over a century ago. In a deputation to the Secretary of Scotland in 1917, it was claimed that "with kindly treatment, tinkers could be reclaimed and brought into line with ordinary civilisation".

Then chair of the Department of Tinkers in Scotland, the Duchess of Atholl, asked for a Scotland-wide census on the numbers and social make-up of these communities.

This was an attempt to measure what was called at the time in the press as the "Tinker Problem", and then solve this problem by assimilating travellers into mainstream Scottish society by threatening to remove their children into care.

It is believed by the travelling community that thousands of individuals were forced to exist in properties with no hot water, electricity or proper washing facilities. Those who refused had their children taken into care.

Throughout the 20th-century huts to house travellers were built in at least 10 different locations across Scotland.

Perthshire Council initially bought a former WWII prisoner of war hut to be used as housing for four gypsy families. In a letter from 1945 concerning the creation of the property, the council ignored bylaws for minimum standards of housing, instead applying regulations intended for tents, vans or sheds.

The huts were deliberately substandard to encourage travelling families to quickly move into mainstream accommodation and so be assimilated into Scottish society, reasoning no-one would put up with the property for more than three years.

However, this assimilation was difficult as many gypsies felt they couldn't practise their own culture living in a council estate isolated from their own community. Those affected have repeatedly asked the Scottish Government for an apology, but without success.

Now, ALBA Party have pledged their support to calls for an apology.

Commenting Alba Party Equalities Convener Eva Comrie said: 

“The lives of many Gypsy Travellers have been blighted by this experiment over the course of the past 100 years and more. 

“The devastating impact which these policies had on families, many of whom are still suffering the consequences, and the diminishment of an entire way of life, is a stain on Scotland that should be rectified. 

“As part of meaningful actions to tackle the discrimination and challenges faced by the gypsy/traveller community, there must be recognition that this group was failed by the state therefore Alba Party wholly supports calls for an apology from the Scottish Government.” 

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