'Racist' Express blocks council chief's parking space

By Hamish Mackay

A council chief has accused the Evening Express in Aberdeen of
racism and encouraging vigilante action because of its current campaign
on rogue travellers. The racist accusation, by Aberdeenshire Council’s
chief executive Alan Campbell, came after the newspaper mounted a
two-day protest by blocking his car-parking space at the council’s HQ
with a residential caravan.

The Evening Express has been campaigning for several months about
the failure of local authorities and the government to act against
travellers who disregard the law.

The paper says the groups has left rubbish and human waste behind after occupying lay-bys and private land.

Campbell attacked the Evening Express in a BBC TV interview.

He
said: “My concerns fundamentally are that (the Evening Express is)n
trying to incite the public against travelling people. Clearly they are
classified as a racial minority. We all have a responsibility towards
them.

The Evening Express is trying to attract vigilante type action.”

After
placing the caravan in the council car park, the Evening Express manned
it with staff reporters and put in a request for a portable toilet and
a skip for rubbish – as granted to one group of travellers by the
council. This was rejected. During the two-day protest, Campbell wrote
editor Donald Martin a personal letter.

He wrote: “As you are
aware, your staff are obstructing private ground here at Woodhill
House. They have now been here for 48 hours. Please arrange for them to
leave.”

After the Evening Express pulled out, its stance was supported by another Aberdeen City councillor, Ron Clark.

He
said: “The Evening Express has made the point. If Campbell was
consistent with the way encampments are dealt with, he should have
ignored the caravan being there. This is not about travellers – it is
about the policies of councils.”

In its leader column, the
Evening Express hit back at Campbell. It said: “How dare the head of
Aberdeenshire Council attempt to play the racist card against this
newspaper over the travellers issue. Alan Campbell’s claims that we are
trying to incite people against a racial minority or attempting to
attract vigilante action against travellers are quite simply nonsense;
offensive nonsense at that.

“The focus of our campaign has never been against the travellers’ way of life.

It
has been aimed at travellers acting illegally and Aberdeenshire
Council’s failure to ensure everyone, regardless of their background,
obeys the law.

“Does Campbell only speak out or act when he is
inconvenienced? Or will he now do what we have been asking for all
along – ensure all the people obey all the rules all the time?”

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