Travellers row rumbles on at Selkirk site

Selkirk folk were out in force on Monday evening to express their anger over the ongoing situation with travellers in the town’s Victoria Park.

Thursday, 15th October 2020, 10:49 am
Updated Thursday, 15th October 2020, 12:37 pm

There has been much unrest over the site, selected by Scottish Borders Council at the start of the lockdown to house members of the travelling community on the instruction of the Scottish Government in a bid to stop them moving around the country.

That unrest boiled over recently, with caravans being damaged and windows broken in what must have been a terrifying night for the families concerned.

Souters have been riled over the state of the park, with litter often being strewn over the grounds, and site owner Live Borders’ decision not to open up the caravan park to tourists.

The main complaint voiced on Monday was the state of the YM rugby pitch, which has been badly damaged on several occasions by cars and quad bikes.

The pitch has since been repaired, but there is an ongoing issue of travelling people allowing their dogs to defecate on the playing surface.

Attending the meeting was Alan Wheelans, the Covid co-ordinator for Selkirk Youth Club, who play their matches and train on the pitch.

He said: “We have to produce a risk assessment for the SRU to get the boys back in training.

“The first question I had to answer is if it was a safe environment for them and the simple answer to that is no.

“I appreciate that there has been work done to repair the pitch. But when I have been down there to assess it, the caravan doors have been left open and the dogs are just running wild over the pitch.

“I’m not taking the responsibility of saying it’s safe when it quite clearly isn’t. I can’t sign that off.”

Members discussed ways of getting round the situation, with fencing off the pitch and moving training to the High School pitches at the other end of town being mooted.

Eileen Firth said: “I understand the request to fence it off, but rugby is a momentum sport and these kids could get smashed up into a fence.

“We need to put pressure on the travellers to keep their dogs off the grass. If my dog does its mess I clean it up and so should they.

“Also, it is the Youth Club’s centenary season this year ... I absolutely disagree with them being asked to go anywhere.

“We all have a responsibility for these kids to be able to go out there ... they have had to give up so much.”

Several members agreed, and vice-chairman Graham Easton added: “The Youth Club has been there for 100 years, and we have a minority group coming in .. the Youth Club manufactures players for the adult team and for Scotland. Why are we bending over backwards for a minority group?

“Because we can’t be seen to do otherwise ... and that’s the situation we are in as a nation.”

Councillor Gordon Edgar reported that some families had moved on after some trouble at the site and that there were only two or three families left, who have stated that they want to settle in the Borders and have applied for housing.

After the meeting, he expressed his disappointment at how the travellers were treated by the locals.