Published: 23 Sep 2016
The Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland has welcomed a report from the Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion, published today, which calls for a multi-agency approach to stamp out hate crime in Scotland.
The advisory group, established by the Scottish Government in 2015, found that, at its root, too many hate crime offenders feel they have a license to offend because no one challenges them. The Commission agrees that adopting a zero tolerance approach to hate crime is the best way to isolate the offenders.
The Commission agrees that we need a joined-up multi-agency approach to tackling this societal problem. Pockets of knowledge and good practice often exist in silos, with organisations across Scotland developing their own practices in isolation from one another. Leadership is required from the Scottish government, local authorities, the NHS, the police and every school and community across Scotland in tackling the issue.
In particular the Commission believes we need:
- schools to report on all prejudiced based bullying which will inform strategies that protect victims (as we have called for during evidence at the UN)
- the newly combined British Transport Police and Police Scotland to explore better ways in which people can 'see it, report it' on public transport
- communities to encourage, empower and build confidence to report incidents of hate crime
- public authorities such as health boards to use their existing Public Sector Equality Duty reporting requirements as a tool to tackle prejudice
- local authorities and community planners to examine ways to build citizenship and address the isolation some communities feel
- press, social media users, politicians and public figures to use positive messaging regarding all groups so there is no doubt that abusive and insulting behaviour is unacceptable in modern day Scotland.
Alastair Pringle, Director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland, said:
"We have a long and proud history of acceptance and celebration of diversity, but unfortunately this isn’t shared by everyone in Scotland. Still too many feel they have license to abuse their fellow citizens on racial or homophobic or other grounds. The stark fact is that half of all reported hate crime incidents are committed by, and towards, young people. We believe that part of the solution lies in understanding how best to challenge environments which are permissive of this sort of behaviour.
"Building confidence amongst young people, those who work with them and those who work in community settings, to tackle prejudice and discrimination wherever they see it is absolutely vital in tackling hate crime in Scotland. There is also a need to examine current evidence to see what currently is working and invest in these areas before we reinvent the wheel elsewhere.
"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. I was struck by a recent reported case where several passengers complained about the offensive behaviour and racist language from other passengers on a flight to Ibiza last week. This resulted in their removal from the flight. I think this demonstrates exactly how we can make a change in society by refusing to be a bystander, showing responsible leadership by example and speaking up and being an active citizen.
"Since its inception, the Commission has worked to understand and tackle harassment, hostility and hatred. We hope this report sparks the start of a national conversation to ensure we stamp out hate crime once and for all."