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Hate crime

Scotland’s diversity is its strength; all communities are valued and their contribution welcomed. Hate crime and prejudice threaten community cohesion and have a corrosive impact on Scotland’s communities as well as broader society. It is never acceptable and we are committed to tackling it.

About hate crime

Hate crime can be verbal or physical and has hugely damaging effects on the victims, their families and communities, and we all must play our part to challenge it.

Hate crime is the term used to describe behaviour which is both criminal and rooted in prejudice.

Current hate crime legislation allows any existing offence to be aggravated by prejudice in respect of one or more of the characteristics of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity. There is also existing standalone hate crime offences of stirring up racial hatred and of racially aggravated harassment.

Hate crime strategy

We have committed to publishing a new hate crime strategy later in 2022.

We have established the Hate Crime Strategic Partnership Group to inform the strategy. This group is chaired by the Minister for Equalities and Older People. It will ensure a multi-agency strategic approach towards the development of a new hate crime strategy that takes account of the needs of our diverse communities.

The strategy will refresh our approach to tackling hate crime and will support implementation of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021.

Tackling prejudice and building connected communities

On 23 December 2021 we published a report on implementation set out in the ‘Tackling Prejudice and Building Connected Communities Action Plan’. The report shows significant progress has been made towards tackling hate crime in Scotland, with successful delivery of the vast majority of actions from the 2017 action plan.

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021

Hate crime legislation helps recognise the particular impact and harm caused by hate crime to the victim, the group to which the victim belongs and to wider society.

On 11 March 2021 the Scottish Parliament voted to pass the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill. The Bill received Royal Assent to become an Act of the Scottish Parliament on 23rd April 2021 and is available to read on legislation.gov.uk.

Hate crime continues to be dealt with under existing legislation until such time as the Act comes into force.

Once commenced  the Act will:  

  • consolidate, modernise and extend existing hate crime legislation
  • update the list of characteristics included in hate crime legislation and creates new stirring up of hatred offences that will apply to the protected characteristics of age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics.
  • restate the existing standalone offences of stirring up racial hatred and of racially aggravated harassment

All of Scotland’s hate crime laws will be located within the Act.

The Act also includes provisions to ensure that information on hate crime recorded by the Police and information on hate crime convictions will be published annually.

Read more information on the Act on the Scottish Parliament website.

We are continuing to work closely with justice partners - including Police Scotland - as we prepare to commence the Act's main provisions.

Campaign activity

We have launched hate crime awareness campaigns in 2017, 2018 and 2020 in partnership with Police Scotland.

Letters from Scotland (2018-2020)

On 7 October 2020 we relaunched our Letters from Scotland hate crime campaign (which was first launched in September 2018) in partnership with Police Scotland which aimed to encourage witnesses to report. The campaign was a series of letters addressed to perpetrators of hate crime.  They are signed ‘Yours, Scotland’ in order to encourage those who read it to report hate crime if they witness it – therefore helping to create ‘One Scotland’ where hate crime and prejudice is not tolerated.

The 2018 campaign evaluation was positive and showed an increase in those who would claim to take action if they witnessed a hate crime.  The evaluation report for the campaign launched in 2020 will be published in due course. 

The campaign evaluation for the Hate Has No Home in Scotland campaign, launched in 2017, was also positive and showed it had been particularly successful among those who have experienced hate crime.

Data collection

We recognise that the data and evidence on hate crime in Scotland needs to be improved. It needs to show a greater level of disaggregation, and it needs to tell us more about victims and perpetrators. Such data is essential in our work to more effectively tackle hate crime in Scotland.

Like our stakeholders, we want to see this level of data published on a regular and sustainable basis.

In February 2021, we published the research report, A Study into the Characteristics of Police Recorded Hate Crime in Scotland.

This report provides an update on work by our analysts and Police Scotland to review the availability of information on hate crime recorded by the police in Scotland. This is the first time such a high-quality measure of police recorded data on hate crime has been publicised.

This report presents updated statistics on the number of hate crimes recorded by the police in Scotland over 2014 to 2015 to 2019 to 2020. 

Since 2014 to 2015, the number of hate crimes recorded annually by the police has fluctuated between 6,300 and 7,000.

The police recorded 6,448 hate crimes in 2019-20. Around three-fifths (62%) had a race aggravator, one in five (20%) included a sexual orientation aggravator, 8% religion, 4% disability and 1% transgender identity.

The study also includes the nature of hate crimes recorded by the police in 2018 2019, including characteristics of both victims and perpetrators. Our analysts have committed to carrying out a further deep dive analysis covering the pandemic year 2020 to 2021.

Hate crime reporting

We recognise that the under reporting of hate crime is a serious issue. The Tackling Prejudice and Building Connected Communities Action Group has prioritised work to address barriers to reporting, including encouraging reporting.  

If you have been targeted because of your disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity, or you are aware of someone else being targeted, we want you to report it.

We encourage anyone who has experienced or witnessed a hate crime to report it to Police Scotland by dialling 999 in emergencies or 101 in non-emergencies. Alternatively reports can be made online by completing Police Scotland’s online hate crime reporting form.  You can also report a hate crime through your nearest third party reporting centre

You can also report a hate crime 100% anonymously by contacting Crimestoppers.

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