Scandal of Scotland’s ‘Tinker Experiment’

The Herald has covered the scandal of the ‘Tinker Experiment’ in Scotland, whereby Gypsy Travellers were subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment by the authorities in an attempt to assimilate them into ‘mainstream’ society.  

For anyone who has been following the enforced state-dictated wellbeing outcomes of the GIRFEC regime, the parallels are horribly striking, albeit the current social engineering experiment has been cynically ‘messaged’ to keep the unwitting lab rats in their dark SHANARRI Skinner boxes. 

Scandal of The Tinker Experiment: demands for apology over Scotland’s treatment of gypsy travellers

Known as the “Tinker Experiment”, it saw members of the travelling community placed in specially provided huts, far from the rest of society, in a bid to break them into joining the rest of the population and effectively kill off their culture. Remarkably, most of these sites only closed in the 1980s, but one in Pitlochry remained in use only a decade ago.

Now members of the travelling community are demanding an official apology from the Scottish Government for what they call Scotland’s secret shame, and they’re planning a protest at Holyrood next month.

They are angry that other sections of society have received apologies for historically poor treatment from the state while they still wait, despite it being illegal to discriminate against gypsy travellers on grounds of race since the Equality Act of 2010.

Shamus McPhee, who was a subject of the experiment at Bobbin Mill, Pitlochry, pointed out the hypocrisy of the government in failing to issue a formal apology when several precedents had been set in the form of apologies to the gay community, to those affected by the contaminated blood in the 80s and 90s and over the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.

He said:

“A programme of eugenics saw Gypsy Travellers separated out on racial grounds for removal from Scottish society. This marked a top-down, concerted approach, designed to eradicate a specific group of people.

The article continues:

[The Tinker Experiment] was an attempt to measure what was called at the time in the press as the “Tinker Problem”, and then solve this problem by assimilating travellers into mainstream Scottish society by threatening to remove their children into care.

By forcing them to send their children to school for a set number of days, the gypsy families would have to settle in permanent accommodation as governments and local authorities recognised that the families had a close bond with their children.

Due to the secretive nature of the plan, exact figures have been hard to come by, but it is believed that thousands of individuals were forced to exist in properties with no hot water, electricity or proper washing facilities.

Those who refused had their children taken into care.

Throughout the 20th century huts to house travellers were built in at least 10 different locations across Scotland. These included the Bridge of Don barracks in Aberdeen, Red Rocks in Inverness-shire and Muir of Ord on the edge of the Black Isle. These sites were basic by design with minimum living facilities and were closely supervised by the authorities.

On the Muir of Ord site, the idea “was to train the tinker how to live in a house, instead of in sheds, old buses and under canvas which would give them a better chance in life”. In Perthshire alone, 35 traveller families were housed in substandard huts, many unaware that they were part of a racial experiment. Perthshire Council initially bought a former WWII prisoner of war hut to be used as housing for four gypsy families.

Most of these sites closed in the 1980s but one in Pitlochry remained in use only a decade ago. The building was condemned as unfit for human habitation in 1962 yet the council continued to place families there throughout the decade.

Many former residents believe that their recurring health problems today stem from the asbestos dust and freezing conditions of their childhood home.

The experiment in assimilation failed as the children were mercilessly bullied at the local primary and secondary school and then became stigmatised because of their sub-human housing, which affected their chances of forming relationships outside those in the same situation.

When asked about the Tinker Experiment, a Scottish Government spokesperson siad:

“The lives of many gypsy travellers have been blighted by the historical housing polices of councils and charities. We absolutely recognise the devastating impact which these polices had on families, many of whom are still suffering the consequences.

“A joint Scottish Government and Cosla £3 million action plan to tackle the discrimination and challenges faced by the gypsy/traveller community was published in October.”

Background references


Gypsy Traveller history in Scotland, by Shamus McPhee, published 2017


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