Policy actions  3 of 3

Hate crime

We are 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.

Campaign activity

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.

Read the news release about the Hate Has No Home in Scotland campaign 

The campaign evaluation was positive and showed it had been particularly successful among those who have experienced hate crime. 

Hate Crime Bill

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament.  

The Bill provides for the modernising, consolidating and extending of hate crime legislation in Scotland, and is an essential element of our programme of work to tackle hate crime and build community cohesion. 

Current hate crime legislation has evolved over time in a fragmented manner. Different elements of hate crime law are located in different statutes; it is not as user-friendly as it could be and it lacks consistency.

The new Hate Crime Bill will provide greater clarity, transparency and consistency. It brings most of Scotland’s hate crime legislation into one statute. This will make the law easier to understand.

Read a general overview and topical notes covering the different Bill provisions below:

  • general overview
  • age
  • blasphemy
  • protection of freedom of expression
  • racial hatred
  • sex-gender
  • statutory aggravations
  • stirring up hatred offences
  • transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics

The Bill and its accompanying documents: policy memorandum, financial memorandum, explanatory notes, statements on legislative competence and delegated powers memorandum can be found on the Scottish Parliament website. You can also read a briefing note on the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill on the Scottish Parliament site. 

We have published the following impact assessments alongside the Bill:

The impact assessments covering Island Communities, Local Government and Sustainable Development can be found in the Policy Memorandum to the Bill.

Read the news release announcing the Bill’s publication. 

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice has engaged with stakeholders to inform the development of the policy change to the Bill as outlined in his statement to Parliament on 23 September 2020. Discussion also covered a range of other matters connected with the Bill as well as wider hate crime policy. Short notes of the meetings are available. 

The Justice Committee’s Stage One Report on the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill was published on the Scottish Parliament website on 10 December 2020).

The Scottish Government’s Response to the Justice Committee’s Stage One Report and a covering letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice to the Convener of the Committee was published on the Scottish Parliament website on 14 December 2020.

Existing 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 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:

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:

Hate crime reporting

Hate crime is a criminal offence. You can report a hate crime to Police Scotland or through your nearest third party reporting centre.