This Government is clear that any form of hate crime or prejudice is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
We are committed to building strong, resilient and supportive communities. Hate crime and prejudice threaten community cohesion, and have a corrosive impact on Scotland's minority communities as well as broader society.
What is 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.
In Scotland, the law currently recognises hate crimes as motivated by prejudice for based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, transgender identity.
Tackling prejudice and building connected communities
In June 2017, we published an ambitious programme of work to tackle hate crime and build community cohesion in response to the recommendations made by the Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion.
We have also established an action group, chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government with key stakeholders to take this work forward.
Letters to Scotland (2018)
In September 2018 we launched the Letters to Scotland campaign in partnership with Police Scotland. It aimed to encourage witnesses to report hate crime.
The campaign evaluation was positive and showed an increase in those who would claim to take action if they witnessed a hate crime.
Hate Has No Home in Scotland (2017)
In October 2017 we launched a six week 'Hate Has No Home in Scotland' campaign in partnership with Police Scotland. The campaign aimed to raise awareness of hate crime and encouraged both victims and witnesses to report it.
The campaign evaluation was positive and showed it had been particularly successful among those who have experienced hate crime.
New hate crime legislation
Lord Bracadale carried out an Independent Review of Hate Crime Legislation in Scotland and a report and recommendations were published on 31 May 2018. We consulted on these recommendations from 14 November 2018 to 24 February 2019. The responses and an independent analysis report were published in June 2019.
We are taking account of Lord Bracadale’s review and the consultation responses in developing new legislation to consolidate and modernise hate crime legislation in Scotland. The Programme for Government, published in September 2019, stated that a Hate Crime Bill will be introduced to Parliament in this parliamentary session. We will provide regular updates about the development of the Bill on this page.
Current hate crime laws
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.
This approach does not involve the creation of new offences; rather it involves an existing offence, such as an assault, being motivated by, or demonstrating, hostility in respect of one or more protected characteristics. These are known as statutory aggravations. The court is currently required to record the statutory aggravation and take it into account when determining an appropriate sentence.
As well as ensuring that levels of hate crime are recorded, it sends a signal that society does not accept this form of conduct. It also reassures victims and their families that an offence motivated by prejudice has been formally acknowledged and taken into account in sentencing.
In Scotland, the law currently recognises hate crimes as motivated by prejudice for statutory aggravations based on:
- race: section 96 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998
- religion: section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003
- disability: section 1 of the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009
- sexual orientation and transgender identity: section 2 of the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009
Prejudice or hostility also lies at the heart of some other offences which are recognised as hate crimes. These are sometimes referred to as standalone hate crime offences and they criminalise behaviour specifically because it is motivated by racial prejudice. Currently, these standalone offences include:
- racially aggravated harassment: section 50A of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995
- stirring up of racial hatred: sections 18 to 22 of the Public Order Act 1986