Every year, land owners across the UK experience problems with travellers setting up camp on their land, without permission. In February this year, the UK Government announced plans to give police new powers to make it easier for them to remove unauthorised encampments.

The Scottish Government has set up a working group to focus on gypsies/travellers. They currently have no plans to recommend that the same approach is taken in Scotland.

What can you do if travellers decamp on your land without your permission?

You can call the police, but they will not usually remove them unless they have committed a serious crime. In Scotland, trespassing is a crime but the police will normally treat it as a civil matter. It's up to you to remove the travellers.

You can also call your local community travellers liaison officer, but they have no powers to remove them if they are unwilling to leave your land.

What then?

Removal Notice

Sheriff officers would normally be instructed (typically by your lawyer) to serve a 24 hours removal notice on the travellers. The officers will also take a note of the number of individuals who are camped without authorisation, registration plates and the damage being caused.

If they don't leave after 24 hours - which is often the case - the next step is court proceedings.

The court process

Courts are generally sympathetic to landowners in these cases.

An application can be made to the court for an immediate removal order, but it is very rare that these are granted.

Usually, a court will give the travellers the opportunity to defend the action. Normally that's 48 hours.

If no defence has been lodged after 48 hours, your lawyer will return to court and ask for an order to remove.


Sheriff Officers will take that order and serve it on the travellers.

At that point, the travellers usually leave within 24 hours.

If they don't, the order allows you to remove them, which will usually involve sheriff officers, tow trucks and the police.

Once they are gone, you can begin to look at arrangements to stop them from coming back onto your land.


Matt Farrell