Call for warden at Selkirk gypsy traveller site

Calls have been made to install a 24-hour campsite warden in Selkirk’s Victoria Park while gypsy travellers are there, and to charge the costs to the Scottish Government.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 2:04 pm
The gypsy traveller site at Selkirk's Victoria Park. Photo: Bill McBurnie.

The row over the travellers being placed at the site has been going on for a year now, and at the town’s community council meeting on Monday evening, it caused more heated debate amongst Souters and officials.

At the start of the coronavirus lockdown last March, the Scottish Government told every council to provide a location where travellers could stay rather than have them move around the country.

And Scottish Borders Council claimed at the time that Victoria Park, next to the town’s leisure centre, was the only suitable location.

Since then, locals have become increasingly angry at the situation, claiming that while they follow lockdown rules by staying at home, the travellers are not, seemingly moving around the country, with new travellers arriving at the site at all hours.

Locals also say the site is a mess, with litter bins overflowing, and the neighbouring Selkirk Youth Club rugby pitch being ruined by quad bikes and cars. Just this week, a portaloo was tipped over onto the grass.

Others feel that Selkirk is losing out on a possible tourism goldmine, as while the gypsies are there and the site is a mess, there won’t be any interest from ‘staycation’ tourists once the lockdown is over, and the town’s businesses would lose out on a potential goldmine.

It’s also been claimed that some caravans were damaged in a spat between locals and travellers.

At Monday’s meeting, former vice-chairman of Selkirk Community Council, Colin Anderson, opened up the debate in the open forum, and called for a warden to be put in place at the site.

Councillor Caroline Cochrane agreed, saying the the costs of installing a warden should be met by the Scottish Government, along with any costs of bringing the site back to tourist standard. However, she also called for the council to make room for improvements in its upcoming budget.

She said this week: “I would like to see both the adminstration and opposition allow for additional support to Live Borders when preparing their budgets this year to bring the site up to a more attractive state for tourists.

"As we know the staycation will be huge this year with families opting to stay in the UK, therefore we need to ensure we are ready and open for business. This will of course have a knock on effect on the whole area, but allowing tourist to have a base in which to travel around and see the what the Borders has to offer.

The park needs a tidy up and some cosmetic upgrades as well as proper signage and a marketing budget, however it is my belief this would be money well spend for the whole of the Borders Tourist Economy.