Gypsy/Traveller rights group hits back at SFA for inaction on Douglas Ross remarks

Caitlin Logan

Tory MP and referee to face no disciplinary action by SFA for controversial “gypsy” comments

GYPSY and traveller rights organisation Article 12 has condemned the Scottish Football Association’s decision to take no formal action against Tory MP and part time referee Douglas Ross for his comments about the gypsy/traveller community.

Douglas Ross came under fire from political opponents and human rights groups last month for saying that, if he was prime minister for one day, he would “like to see tougher enforcement against Gypsies and Travellers.”

Ross since apologised for choosing this as his number one priority, but argued that it remained “an important issue for communities across Scotland”.

The Moray MP works part time as a professional referee, and as such his comments were subject to an investigation by the Scottish Football Association’s Compliance Officer.

READ MORE: SFA compliance officer examining Tory MP and part-time ref’s anti-gypsy remarks

It has now been revealed that the SFA ruled that Ross had not breached their disciplinary rules, in particular rule 73, which warns against the use of “discriminatory or offensive” comments. Ross was warned to take care over his language in future. 

A Scottish FA spokesperson said: “Mr Ross has been reminded by the Compliance Officer that he should give careful regard to the Scottish FA’s disciplinary rules whilst under its jurisdiction.”

Lynne Tammi, CEO of Article 12 in Scotland, an organisation which advocates for the rights of the Gypsy/Travellers, told CommonSpace: “It is disappointing that the SFA has seen Ross’ comments as ‘falling short of discriminatory’. 

“Based on Rule 73 of the SFA’s Equality Action Plan, it is my belief that Ross’ comments were indeed discriminatory and offensive, and consequently could be categorised as a hate crime.  

“Further, I would remind the SFA that to constitute a hate crime the ‘offensive test’ extends beyond a targeted individual or group – meaning that any individual who found them offensive could have recourse under current legislation.  This has been a missed opportunity for the SFA to stand up to discrimination.”

The SFA’s Rule 73 states that no body, official or staff member shall: “in an interview, a ‘blog’ on the internet, on a social networking or microblogging site, or in any other manner calculated or likely to lead to publicity, make comment(s) of a discriminatory or offensive nature based on, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability.”

“Ross has stated that he wishes to ‘draw a line under the matter’ – does this mean he will cease demonising Scotland’s nomads?” Lynne Tammi, Article 12

Lynne Tammi of Article 12 also called for a public apology from Douglas Ross and said that his response to date had been inadequate. She said: “Douglas Ross has yet to apologise for his comments, choosing rather to apologise for his ‘ranking’ of the Gypsy/Traveller community in his list of burning issues.  

“We must conclude then that Ross intends to continue with his long term aim of cleansing Gypsy/Travellers from his constituency. The ball would seem to back firmly in the court of the Conservative leader in Scotland.

“As a champion of other minority groups’ rights, Ruth Davidson has the power to ensure the appropriate action is taken that ensures Gypsy/Travellers have the same right of redress afforded to others with protected characteristics. 

“Ross has since stated that he wishes to ‘draw a line under the matter’ – does this mean he will cease demonising Scotland’s nomads and commit to working with community advocates and representatives to find a just solution for all?

“A full public apology to Scotland’s oldest ethnic minority community would be a good starting point.”

The Scottish Conservative Party confirmed following the remarks that no action would be taken against Douglas Ross.

“Ruth Davidson clearly thinks her party can do and say whatever they want and get away with it.” Christina McKelvie MSP

SNP MSP Christina McKelvie commented on the news that Ross was warned about his language by the SFA: “Part-time politician Douglas Ross has been a constant embarrassment to Ruth Davidson since being elected – choosing to run the line at football matches instead of turning up for his parliamentary duties.
“But now it seems the SFA take his offensive and divisive comments about gypsy travellers more seriously than the Tory party.
“This is beginning to look like a pattern – with the Boys’ Brigade taking more serious action than the Tories over their disgraced councillor Alastair Majury and his sectarian tweets.
“Ruth Davidson clearly thinks her party can do and say whatever they want and get away with it.”

The Scottish Conservative Party could not be reached for comment. 

Picture courtesy of Core Politics

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