NEARLY £400,000 has been spent by Scots councils to remove illegal travellers from public land in the past three years.
Figures obtained through Freedom of Information have revealed that 16 local councils spent thousands of pounds on legal fees and cleaning up public land.
Hit TV shows, including My Big Fat Gypsy wedding, have raised the profile of traveller communities in recent years, but the cost to deal with illegal encampments has left Scots councils £398,925 out of pocket.
Aberdeen City Council paid out £114,925 over three years.
A Scottish Government survey in 2009 estimated the Gypsy / Traveller population in Scotland at 2,455.
Official stats show that Moray Council spent an astonishing £133,289 to deal with unauthorised encampments over a three year period. This included staff costs and the cost of developing the former Chanonry travellers’ site at Elgin.
Aberdeen City Council was the second highest spender, paying out £114,925 in the same period.
Fife council spent £75,602 and Midlothian council £11,401 over three years. North Ayrshire spent £671.20 and Dundee council spent £13,084.45
In West Dunbartonshire, the council spent £2,800 pounds in legal costs and £21,000 in clean up costs. Falkirk council paid out £923.53.
Argyll and Bute council said it spent approximately £1,735 in clean up costs, a spokesman added: “This can vary from year to year depending on how long they stay or if they are just passing through.” The council did not incur any legal fees to remove travellers.
In Stirling there were 19 cases of unauthorised encampments over the three year periods with an overall spend of 2,960. In South Lanarkshire, the council cost of removing travellers and clearing and safeguarding sites was £14,409.
West Lothian council spent £6,090 and Scottish Borders council £350 in the same three year period.
Edinburgh, Glasgow, Shetland and Orkney council did not report spending any money on moving illegal encampments.
Scottish travellers, have a long history in Scotland going back to the 12th century.
There are currently estimated to be around 744 traveller households across the country.
Fife council senior manager, John Mills, said the council’s main costs were spent dealing with legal action against gypsy travellers.
He said: “The Fife Co-operation Policy sets out the rights and responsibilities of Gypsy Travellers in Fife. Fife like many areas of Scotland has to attempt to manage unauthorised encampments of Gypsy Travellers moving through Fife during the travelling season of March – October. The main costs in Fife relate to legal action to remove Gypsy Travellers from sites that are unsuitable, and waste and cleansing costs for cleaning up the mess left behind.
“Our strategy is to create a network of between 6-8 stopover sites, managed by the Council so that costs can be drastically reduced. If successful, stopover sites will enable the Council and Police to take more effective action to minimise the incidence of expensive unauthorised encampments.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We fully recognise that Unauthorised Camping is a sensitive and challenging issue. We continue to engage with local authorities to ensure any approach to move Gypsies/Travellers strikes an appropriate balance between the needs of members of the settled community, local businesses, landowners and the Gypsy/Traveller community. We are about to start working with stakeholders to consider further the options available to overcome these issues.”