Scotland’s Census 2021 – Finding a place for Showpeople?

Census taker at the wagon of Indigenous Dutch Travellers Gieleman Theunisz, Tonia Huurman, and their children Antonia and Anne Theunisz, 1925, Verdine, the Netherlands. Image Source: Wikimedia (author information not currently available)

With rehearsals for Scotland’s carefully tailored 2021 Census now complete, Fair Glasgow a our colleagues in the Scottish Section of the Showman’s Guild will be looking at the final composition of its data collection form with great interest.

The Census is a critical tool for gathering reliable information on the Scottish population. It is used by politicians and planners to allocate vital services such as education and healthcare, by social researchers investigating social issues, and by journalists representing various communities and regions. Because the census is so important in shaping policy locally and nationally, members of Fair Glasgow felt strongly that the current Census form, which only offers limited options for Travelling communities, was profoundly inadequate.

The current Scottish Census form (last issued in 2011) requires Showpeople to either tick ‘Gypsy/Traveller’ or ‘other’. Many Showpeople are profoundly uncomfortable with these choices, and choose not to identify themselves as Travellers given the available options. This skews available data and makes it impossible to accurately represent numbers of Showpeople in Scotland.

Screenshot of the options presented on the 2011 Census.

One result of the lack of adequate representation on the current Census has been that because Scottish Showpeople have had no option they can check in census forms, policy makers and groups such as Fair Glasgow, or organisations such as The Showman’s Guild or Scottish Traveller Education Programme have been unable to put their hands on reliable and solid statistics to aid them in their important work. The long-term impact of this, in our opinon, cannot be overstated.

Considering all this, we are delighted to report that with the next census due to be carried out in 2021, the organisation ‘Scotland’s Census’ has been consulting with various communities and groups to see how they can be included more accurately. Over the course of 2018-19, at the request of the Scottish Section of the Showman’s Guild, Fair Glasgow Dr t s Beall, Dr Mitch Miller, and DrAndrea Salvona worked with Guild Vice Chair Alex-James Colquhoun to draft a detailed response to the Scotland’s Census team, building a case for Scottish Showpeople to be recognised as a distinct identity on the Census form. This brought together years of research by Beall, Miller and Salvona that was then submitted to the Scotland’s Census team in the spring of 2018.

The dialogue has proved positive throughout and signs are that Scotland’s Census were highly responsive to our submission, and we are hopeful that Scottish Showpeople will be listed on Scotland’s 2021 Census! We will keep you posted as to the final outcome, but for now, we present the full text of the research document we submitted.

Census 2021 Letter regarding inclusion of Scottish Showpeople

One comment

  1. Pingback: Categorising Identity: ‘Occupational Traveller’ to ‘Other’ | Public Policy on Showpeople and the regulation of funfairs in Scotland

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