Today the Scottish Government have launched the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill. This follows a full review and consultation on existing hate crime legislation. The hate crime bill has now been introduced and will make it’s way through the different stages to become law.
The Bill aims to achieve a number of key things. It seeks to update and consolidate existing hate crime legislation. It also adds to the protected characteristics which currently come under hate crime law. Finally it seeks to make the legislation fit for the 21st century.
Age has been added as a protected characteristic. While gender was recommended as a protected characteristic by Lord Bracadale in his review of the legislation, this has not yet been added. However, the power to add sex at a later date is included. This will be dependent on the outcomes of a working group who are looking at a potential stand-alone offence.
If passed by Parliament, the Bill would also provide for new ‘stirring up’ of hatred offences that would apply to all characteristics listed in the Bill: age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics. Currently these offences only apply to stirring up racial hatred.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said:
“This new Hate Crime Bill is an important milestone. By creating robust laws for the justice system, Parliament will send a strong message to victims, perpetrators, communities and to wider society that offences motivated by prejudice will be treated seriously and will not be tolerated.
“Stirring up of hatred can contribute to a social atmosphere in which discrimination is accepted as normal. Our legislation, if passed, would offer greater protection for those who experience this kind of behaviour. We all have a responsibility to challenge prejudice in order to ensure Scotland is the inclusive and respectful society we want it to be.”
YouthLink Scotland role
As part of YouthLink Scotland, Action on Prejudice has been working to ensure that the voices of young people are heard in this process. We have held working groups of young people for both consultations on hate crime legislation. The first fed in to Lord Bracadale’s consultation in 2017 when he was reviewing the existing legislation. This was done in partnership with Young Scot and Scottish Youth Parliament. The second fed into Scottish Government’s consultation following Lord Bracadale’s report in early 2019.
You can read what the young people said in the reports following these events at:
We are very pleased to see the addition of age as a protected characteristic. This was something that young people specifically highlighted in both consultations. Young people feel like they can be targeted due to their young age and the dependence and vulnerability that go with this. Young people are also often most affected by hate as they often identify with multiple protected characteristics. This is what makes it even more important for their voices to be heard.
Tim Frew, CEO of YouthLink Scotland has said;
“YouthLink Scotland welcomes the publication of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill and we are pleased to see that the voices of young people have been heard with the addition of age as a protected characteristic. Through our Action on Prejudice programme we have been working to ensure that young people are consulted and heard at each stage in the development of this bill. Young people are so often most affected by multiple aspects covered by this bill so their voices need to be central to this work.
“Hate Crime should never be tolerated and this bill seeks to ensure that all those who face hate crime are protected. We look forward to seeing its progression through parliament and hope it receives the cross-party support, rights based approach and parliamentary scrutiny it needs to ensure it meets the needs of all the groups hate crime affects. Human Rights and equalities have always been central to the ethos of youth work and we will continue to promote the rights of young people through the progression of this bill.”