Evening Express stands ground in traveller row

By Hamish Mackay

The angry war of words between the Evening Express in Aberdeen and a
council chief over the rights of travelling people has become even more
bitter.

The row flared up after Alan Campbell, chief executive of
Aberdeenshire Council, branded the evening paper as “racist” in a BBC
interview.

The Evening Express retaliated by labelling Campbell as a “hypocrite” in a front-page splash.

The
evening paper has been campaigning against rogue travellers for months,
and mounted a two-day protest at council inactivity by blocking the
chief executive’s car-parking space at the council’s HQ with a caravan
manned by reporters and photographers.

In the latest episode, the
Evening Express devoted a double-page spread to a letter from Campbell
and a response from its editor Donald Martin.

In his letter,
Campbell pointed out the Scottish Executive and all Scottish councils
operated a toleration and nonharassment policy – recognising that
travellers are classified as a racial minority within the law.

“By
constantly highlighting, page after page, that tiny proportion of our
population who are travellers, you effectively demonise them and their
lifestyle in the eyes of your readers,” he claimed.

“Staging a
stunt with reporters and photographers in a caravan sited in our car
park was bad enough, but urging people to come and join them in a
demonstration is the sort of behaviour only vigilantes would take part
in.

“Call me any name you like. My real concern is that the
hysteria the Evening Express generates does nothing other than spread
hatred of travellers.”

Martin claimed his paper was not against
travellers or their way of life but the behaviour of a handful who were
tarnishing the reputation of the many who do use official campsites and
behave responsibly.

“Your washing of hands on this issue creates
resentment among the settled community, who abide by the law and expect
others to do the same.

“When it comes to travellers, council
officers and police are unwilling to step in because they fear
infringing the rights of a racial minority.

“We do not see our campaign as ‘pointless’ just because you are set in your ways and frightened to act.”

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