All Scots Need To Help Tackle Hate Crime

23 September 2016, 15:19 | Updated: 23 September 2016, 15:23

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Hate crime remains an all too real problem in Scotland, according to a report that calls on the whole of society to take responsibility for addressing prejudice.

An expert group set up by Scottish ministers has made a series of recommendations for government, police and other agencies aimed at tackling hate crime.

It identified public transport, the internet, particularly social media, and the workplace as three areas where specific change was needed.

The group also said confidence in reporting incidents of hate crime to the police remained too low and called for improved data in order to better understand the scale of the problem.

Writing in the report introduction, chair Duncan Morrow said: "Facing prejudice and fear remains part of the everyday life of too many people in Scotland, escalating into direct personal violence and threat.

"We heard of people routinely abused on the street or on public transport, of people isolated in their own homes because they feared to go out and of verbal and physical abuse ranging from insults and catcalling on a daily basis to being spat on or molested.

"We heard stories of bullying at school and in the workplace, and of people frightened by the changing news agenda which seemed to blame everyone of one religious group or another.''

The report found prejudicial language was too often excused as "banter'', with any challenge frequently described as "political correctness gone mad''.

"Victims of hate crime report persistent issues of 'bystanding' by members of the public rather than intervention in incidents of bullying, intimidation and hate crime,'' it said.

The report calls on the Scottish Government to work with transport providers to look at ways of better protecting victims of hate crime on public transport, to look at improving the monitoring of and response to online hate crime and to work with employers to explore better ways of preventing, detecting and responding to prejudice in the workplace.

Ministers are urged to encourage stronger partnership working and to call on schools to address issues of prejudice.

The government is also asked to consider whether existing criminal law provides enough protection for those who may be at risk as a result of their gender, age or membership of groups such as refugees and asylum seekers.

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said: "Since 2012, we have invested over £100 million to promote equality and tackle discrimination, and we are continuing to work closely with partner organisations to advance our vision of 'One Scotland'.

"However, I recognise that there is still progress to be made and we will be carefully considering the recommendations from the advisory group in full.''

Alastair Pringle, director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland, said: "We believe that part of the solution lies in understanding how best to challenge environments which are permissive of this sort of behaviour.

"This is fundamentally a responsibility for all of us in Scotland. We all have a part to play, from the Scottish Government, to our schools, to our workplaces, to each of us all as individuals.''

Hannah Pearson, policy co-ordinator at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) charity the Equality Network, said: ``We welcome the report's recognition that hate crime can only be fully tackled by addressing prejudice and improving community cohesion more widely, including through school education.''