First, we welcome Ms Whitham’s interest in this area, which she has had since her days as COSLA’s community spokesperson. She was also an active member of the Scottish Government’s Gypsy Traveller ministerial working group.
Due to the pandemic, the Gypsy Traveller action plan was extended to October 2022 to provide us with more time to deliver on the remaining actions and to build on the excellent work that has already been undertaken. Covid-19 and the pandemic crisis have already allowed us to make unexpected progress in some areas such as remote and distance learning and digital access, which have improved, and improving sites and accommodation. We will continue to work closely with the community, COSLA and partners to ensure that we meet our objectives and improve outcomes for our Gypsy Traveller communities.
As well as seeing their traditional lifestyle eroded, we know that our Gypsy Traveller communities often experience extreme and persistent stereotyping and hostility as they go about their lives. I know that the minister agrees that it is hugely important that we challenge such negative attitudes and ask that progress be made in tackling racism and discrimination, which is a central part of the action plan.
The member is right; we are working hard to address racism, prejudice and discrimination against the community. For example, some of the practical steps that we have taken include the development by NHS Fife and NHS 24 of an e-learning module, to be promoted to tackle the stigma and discrimination that some Gypsy Travellers experience when using national health services. Uptake of the module has been high. Work has also involved developing learning and development resources for Social Security Scotland, to support the needs of Gypsy Travellers when they access front-line services.
As the member will know, COSLA works with councillors across the country to raise awareness of the issues that Gypsy Travellers face, to ensure that they feel involved in their local communities.