Not my usual kind of post this morning but go with it…
I’m approaching the end of my first year as a doctoral student. Aside from the energy-sapping workload of juggling a family, research, a career, and a blog [insert applause here please], there is nothing that suggests to me that taking on a Professional Doctorate was a mistake or that my topic – Scottish Gypsy Traveller interaction with the Criminal Justice Service – was the wrong one to choose. Scottish Gypsy Travellers heritage and culture form an important part of modern Scotland. This culture celebrates close family values, an oral storytelling tradition, and mobility, whether corporeal or reflected as a symbolic identification with mobility and change. Nevertheless, discomfort with mobility on behalf of the sedentary majority in Scotland is still very much apparent. A lack of access to health services, poor political representation, biased and caricatured portrayal in the media, a non-assimilationist education system, and local authorities unwilling to tailor basic services to a semi-nomadic ethnicity all contribute to huge inequality between Scottish Gypsy Travellers and the rest of Scotland’s population.
As I come to the end of my literature review, during which I have learned so much from so many fantastic authors and researchers (Gypsy Traveller and non-Gypsy Traveller alike) one question looms larger than the rest: how can the criminal justice system improve the service that semi-nomadic communities receive when they themselves are organised with a presumption of sedentary behaviour? Officers have their responsibilities limited by the geographical beat in which they patrol, whilst from the moment data is received by the police it is assigned a geographical identifier – a system which is predicated upon service users living sedentary lives. The laws and legislation of Scotland focus on behaviour which is perceived to be disorderly, but which in fact may simply be a way of living with which the sedentary majority are uncomfortable.
Scottish Gypsy Travellers are currently in a period of ethnogenesis. Activism is exploding, awareness is increasing, third sector organisations are finding their voices, fuelled by confident young people sure of their place in the world and not afraid to advocate for it. Over the next three years I am looking forward to continued working with Gypsy Travellers to establish how the CJS can contribute to this ethnogenesis and protect a unique way of life with deep roots in Scottish society.
I’m delighted to feature in the SIPR annual report for 2017/2018 with a slightly longer piece on the above subject along with some fantastic researchers and students…
[I’m on page 38!]
Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Near to the Knuckle, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, and Shooter magazine. He is an absentee member of the Glasgow Writers Group, a PhD student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father.
Not necessarily in that order