Addressing the issue of hate crime should be a priority for the whole of society, according to an independent report published recently.
The Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion was set up by the Scottish Government last year to examine the issue.
Their report sets out a number of recommendations on how to help tackle hate crime and prejudice, and build greater community cohesion.
This includes the need for stronger partnership working at a national and local level, better data collection on incidents and an approach that is based on prevention and education.
Speaking following the report’s publication, Cabinet Secretary for Equalities Angela Constance said: “I welcome the work that the Advisory Group has done in producing this report, which contains important messages that we should all reflect on.
“The Scottish Government is committed to doing all that we can to prevent and eradicate hate crime and prejudice, and build community cohesion.
“Let me be clear - there is absolutely no place for bigotry and prejudice in Scotland.
“As a nation, we have a long history of welcoming people of all nationalities and faiths, and we are committed to supporting their integration into our communities. That has assumed even more importance in the aftermath of the EU referendum, when it is vital that we send a message that Scotland remains a welcoming place for all those who have chosen to make this country their home.
“And we will continue to celebrate the fullness of Scotland’s diversity - everyone in Scotland must be empowered to achieve their potential irrespective of race, faith, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
“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.”
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson added: “Everyone has the right to be safe and to feel safe in their communities.
“We already have strong laws to protect against discrimination and I would encourage anyone who believes they have been a victim of hate crime to report it to the police immediately.
“Our justice partners are doing important work to raise awareness, engage with communities, encourage reporting and ensure that perpetrators of these unacceptable acts are held to account.
“We are continuing to work closely with our key partners and community leaders to ensure people feel protected in Scotland, and anyone found to be engaging in hate crime will feel the full force of the law.”
Duncan Morrow, Chair of the Independent Advisory Group: “We are very pleased to present our report to the Scottish Government. The Government’s commitment to exploring this issue with people who experience hate crime and its effects has been a very welcome and important indicator of its leadership in this issue.
“We found that hate crime remains an all too real issue with real effects on individuals, families, communities and social cohesion. Attacks spread fear to all those who know that they too could face the same violence, and isolates the victims from the rest of society. This in turn fuels prejudice.
“We know that this issue is taken very seriously in Scotland but we heard from too many that reported hate crime is only part of the story. Our recommendations include recommendations to the Government and for criminal justice agencies, including the police.
“However, addressing the underlying issue means sharing the responsibility more widely. Schools and teachers are often in the front line. Community services at local level can have an important influence. Youth workers, transport providers and community organisations are often in a position to act more immediately and more effectively. Political and community leadership is important. Identifying ways for people to act without putting themselves at risk is important. And exploring the opportunities for restorative justice may also be important.
“We hope that the report allows the Scottish Government to continue with its work in this area by providing positive avenues for action and opportunities for partnership working to address this vital issue.”