Anti-racism in Scotland: progress review 2023

Detailed examination of progress made on commitments contained within the Race Equality Framework (2016-2030) and the Immediate Priorities Plan (2021-2023).

8. Theme 2: Community Cohesion and Safety

Vision: We build good race relations and community cohesion across all communities, and all minority ethnic individuals feel safe, protected and included, and experience less racism

We continue to be resolute in our determination to prevent and tackle hatred and prejudice in all of its forms in order to build a more a cohesive society where everyone feels they belong; a society in which the diversity of people's backgrounds, beliefs and circumstances are appreciated and valued, and similar life opportunities are available to all.

We want to foster communities where everyone feels empowered, included and safe – and we want to address the societal attitudes that perpetuate discrimination and prejudice, including hate crime. It is unacceptable in a modern Scotland for anyone to live in fear or be made to feel like they do not belong. Crucially, we emphasise that we all have a role to play in tackling hatred and prejudice and to ensure our communities are truly inclusive. We are clear that preventative work that builds strong, respectful and cohesive communities can reduce the likelihood of narratives that foster prejudice from taking hold and help us create inclusive and empowered communities.

Goal 6: There is greater cohesion between all communities in Scotland.

Hate Crime Strategy

Our new Hate Crime Strategy for Scotland sets out our vision for a Scotland where everyone lives free from hatred and prejudice. The strategy makes a number of commitments including ensuring improved support for victims of hate crime, improving data and evidence on hate crime and developing effective approaches to preventing hate crime. It will also support implementation of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021.

The strategy was developed in partnership with organisations with expertise in tackling prejudice, building cohesive communities and advancing human rights, including the Ministerial chaired Hate Crime Strategic Partnership Group. Importantly, it has also been informed by people with lived experience of hate crime, with a commitment to supporting a range of on-going, participatory engagement to help inform every stage of our delivery – and importantly, to understand if our interventions are making a positive difference.

In the development of the strategy, we heard examples of the types of abuse people have faced, and the impact it has had on them, and we heard about how experiences of hate crime can feel different for different people, especially when a combination of characteristics interact and amplify its impact.

The strategy provides evidence from two published studies into the Characteristics of Police Recorded Hate Crime in Scotland which present statistics on the number of hate crimes recorded by the police in Scotland over 2014-15 to 2021-22, and provide helpful insight into the nature of hate crimes and the characteristics of both victims and perpetrators. The latest report shows that the police recorded 6,927 hate crimes in 2021-22 and that since 2014-15, the number of hate crimes recorded has remained relatively stable, fluctuating between 6,300 and 7,000 crimes a year. In 2021-22, just over three-fifths (62%) of hate crimes included a race aggravator, however, within these characteristics, we can gain further insight into the nature of hate crime.

  • Where information was available on the ethnicity of victims, almost two-thirds (or 64%) of race aggravated hate crimes had a victim from a visible minority ethnic (non-white) group. This compares to 4% of Scotland's population at the time of the last census in 2011.
  • An estimated 18% of race aggravated hate crimes had a victim of African, Caribbean or Black ethnicity. This was followed by Polish or Other White and Pakistani, Pakistani British or Pakistani Scottish (with both groups accounting for 17% of cases each).

We also acknowledge however that hate crime is under-reported and that different groups in society may be more or less likely to report to the police that they have been the victim of a hate crime.

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 once in force will maintain current legislative protections against offences aggravated by prejudice including race as well as the existing offence of stirring up racial hatred that has been part of our criminal law and the law of the whole of the UK for decades. The Act also makes a provision requiring information about police recorded hate crime and convictions data to be published annually, and with greater detail where known.

Following publication of the Hate Crime Strategy for Scotland, we will work with partners to develop a delivery plan which will set out immediate and medium-longer term activity required to fulfil the new strategy over its lifetime.

We are committed to supporting a range of on-going, participatory engagement to help inform every stage of our delivery – and importantly, to understand if our interventions are making a positive difference. This includes working with organisations that support communities affected by hate crime to understand the issues, so as not to overburden individuals with requests to continually share their experiences. We recognise that more can be done to hear from those who may not engage with stakeholder organisations, and we will work widely with our engagement partners and representative groups to understand more about these voices where possible.

Goal 7: Access to justice and safety for minority ethnic individuals is improved and the effectiveness of the justice process in dealing with racism is reviewed.

Policing and access to justice

Dame Elish Angiolini’s (2020) review of complaints handling, investigations, and misconduct in relation to policing in Scotland sought to bring greater fairness, transparency, accountability, and proportionality, protecting the human rights of all involved. Her 111 recommendations included improvements to systems, procedures, and the legislative framework.

Since publication of Dame Elish’s final report, Police Scotland has established and is delivering a substantial programme of work aimed at transforming its culture. This includes enhancing recruitment processes, leadership, and training to develop a culture which reflects its values of integrity, fairness, respect and commitment to upholding human rights.

Almost all of the recommendations relating to equalities, diversity and inclusion within her report have now been delivered. This includes Police Scotland’s establishment of a Sex, Equality and Tackling Misogyny Working Group and the creation of a Policing Together strategy to embed equality and inclusion and become an actively anti-racism organisation. A new Assistant Chief Constable has been appointed who will lead implementation of this programme of work.

A suite of new and revised training products and guidance has also been developed by Police Scotland, Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC) to enhance workforce capability, and work is underway within Police Scotland and SPA to collect and publish diversity data to facilitate better analysis and understanding of issues relating to discrimination.

Additionally, as outlined in the 2022-23 Programme for Government the Scottish Government will introduce a Bill on Police Complaints and Misconduct Handling this parliamentary session (2022-23). This builds on the significant non-legislative improvements already delivered, delivering major business transformation and service redesign to improve how complaints are handled, bringing greater transparency, fairness and accessibility to systems, policies and processes.

Stop and Search

On 13 June 2019, the Independent Advisory Group on Stop and Search published a full report reviewing the first 12 months of the operation of the Code of Practice on Stop and Search. Stop and Search code of practice: twelve month review by independent advisory group - (

The operation of the Code is a matter for Police Scotland. It has been designed to ensure searches will be conducted with fairness, integrity and respect, and irrespective of ethnicity. Police Scotland have mechanisms in place to effectively monitor and evaluate the impact of stop and search practice through their Stop and Search Assurance Group. Membership of this Group includes the Scottish Government, the SPA and academics, who along with Police Scotland, oversee the use of stop and search powers.

Enhancing data quality across the justice system

In October 2020, the Justice Board - as the forum responsible for leadership of the Justice sector in Scotland, set up two separate groups called the Cross Justice Working Group on Race Data and Evidence, and the Cross Justice Working Group on Race and Workforce.

The Groups were established to improve the collection and reporting of race data and evidence on people’s interactions with the justice system and to provide a strategic and cohesive approach to tackling barriers to employment across the justice system. The Groups include representatives from all the main justice organisations, community groups and academia and are working to ensure equity of access in recruitment, retention, promotion and leadership processes across the justice sector.

The Cross Justice Working Group on Race and Workforce has evolved into an expert reference group and has reviewed and commissioned evidence to help shape how we address the challenges faced across the justice sector.

Through the work of the Cross Justice Working Group on Race Data and Evidence, members have agreed to improve the consistency of ethnicity recording across the justice system by adopting the 2022 Scottish Census Ethnicity Classifications in their data collection as soon as is practicably possible.

The Scottish Government have recently published a review of quantitative evidence relating to ethnicity in the justice system in Scotland. The Ethnicity in the Justice System: Evidence Review collates existing data from a range of sources into one compendium for the first time - presenting a picture of what is currently known about the experience of different ethnic groups within Scotland's justice system. The evidence review includes analysis of the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey data by ethnicity using a pooled sample of survey data (collected from 2008/09 to 2019/20) to investigate how experiences and perceptions of crime may vary for people of different ethnicities in Scotland. The analysis includes people’s experiences and perceptions of crime, community safety, and the justice system in Scotland. Key findings include:

  • People who identify as African, Caribbean or Black have a higher rate of victimisation than the national average (22% compared to 17%)
  • People who identify as White Minority Ethnic (56%) and African, Caribbean or Black (53%) are more likely than the national average (46%) to think that the national crime rate has stayed the same or gone down in the last two years.
  • Those who identify as Asian and African, Caribbean or Black have a higher level of fear that they will be victim to both property crimes and violent crimes.
  • People who identify as Asian (64%) are less likely to say that they feel safe walking alone in their local area after dark, whilst those from a Mixed or Multiple (81%) or White Minority Ethnic (76%) group feel safer, compared to the national average (70%).
  • People from all minority ethnic groups are more likely to hold positive views of the police than the national average.
  • People from minority ethnic groups tend to have more positive views of the justice system than the national average. However, there are exceptions, where those from minority ethnic groups have a more negative view of the justice system. These relate to the fairness and treatment of those accused of a crime.

The Scottish Government have also published an Occasional Paper: analysing the ethnicity of individuals subject to hearings in Scottish courts. The paper presents new experimental analysis based on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service’s management information, on the ethnicity of individuals who were proceeded against and sentenced from April 2016 to February 2023. The analysis, a first of its kind, explores how individuals move through the criminal justice system and compares the journeys of people from different ethnic groups. Key findings include:

  • Out of cases completed in court since 2017, White Scottish/White Other British and White minority ethnic people were more likely to be convicted than any other ethnic group.
  • For people convicted of any crime or offence since 2017, White Scottish/White Other British individuals were the most likely to receive a prison sentence.
  • Of those people sentenced to prison since 2017, individuals from all minority ethnic groups received longer sentences than White Scottish/White Other British individuals on average. Some of this difference is explained by differences in crime type, as more severe crimes tend to receive longer sentences.

The Cross Justice Working Group on Race Data and Evidence will continue to promote best practice and support justice organisations with their data collection and reporting, including workforce data, through mutual support and sharing of good practice. Building on the reports already published around ethnicity and justice, the Working Group will consider evidence gaps and options for further research to better understand experiences of minority ethnic people in the justice system.

The Scottish Government will seek to promote an intersectional approach to justice data and evidence, including through aiming to better understand intersectionality in the justice system by reviewing existing evidence and undertaking an initial scoping study across our datasets to explore the feasibility of undertaking intersectional analysis, to better understand the interaction of race with other protected characteristics such as gender on justice system perceptions, experiences and outcomes.

Goal 8: Scotland's police workforce is better able to tackle racism and promote equality and community cohesion in the delivery of police services.

Strategic Policing Priorities – equality, diversity and inclusion

Strategic Policing Priorities (SPPs) in Scotland were developed through a public consultation, both online and with in-person events including one hosted by the Scottish Human Rights Commission. These were published in December 2019. An equalities impact assessment was created as part of the consultation, using evidence from the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER). An emphasis on equality and human rights are at the core of the SPPs, including a commitment to a diverse workforce. Police Scotland’s own Code of Ethics also highlights awareness of cultural issues, beliefs and values. We expect that these priorities will remain in place for a period of two years ahead of the next full review consultation is due to take place in 2025.

The SPA is committed to eliminating discrimination based on all the protected characteristics as identified from the Equality Act 2010. SPA undertakes Equalities Impact Assessments (EQIA) to understand the potential or actual effect of policies, practices and decisions across all protected characteristics. The Joint Equality Outcomes 2021-2023 published in May 2021 by the SPA and PS have eight Equality Outcomes covering both equality in employment and in service delivery, to ensuring equality is at the heart of policing.

In September 2022 Police Scotland published its Policing Together - Police Scotland’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy for 2022-26 and its accompanying Implementation Plan. This is in addition to the establishment of its Strategic Oversight Board to mainstream equality, diversity and inclusion throughout the organisation, in all aspects of planning and delivery while ensuring that its statutory obligations of the Equality Act 2010 are fulfilled.

Police Scotland have also established an Independent Review Group (IRG) to function as a critical friend and partner supporting Police Scotland to deliver sustainable improvement to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) outcomes across the service. EDI is a key element of leadership training through Police Scotland’s ‘Your Leadership Matters’ programme. EDI is also included in probationer training and a plan is in place for force wide EDI refresher training. The IRG has an independent chair, two vice chairs and seven other members all of whom have vast experience in matters relating to equality, diversity and inclusion and have experience in advocating on behalf of minority communities. The IRG will report their findings publicly in early 2024. Police Scotland has also developed an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2022-26.

Goal 9: Police Scotland's workforce better reflects the diversity of its communities.

Increasing diversity in the Police Scotland workforce

The Scottish Government provides financial support to 4 Police diversity staff associations: The Scottish LGBTI Police Association, Scottish Police Muslim Association, SEMPER and Women’s Development Forum. The HMICS Thematic Inspection of Police Scotland Training and Development - Phase 2 – included the following recommendation, ‘Police Scotland should consider improving its understanding of the specific needs of each diversity staff association and reviewing the level of support provided accordingly’.

SEMPER (Supporting Ethnic Minority Police employees for Equality in Race) Scotland is the primary staff association that exists to support and represent all minority ethnic employees on issues of equality in race and to ensure that the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and the Police Service of Scotland (Police Scotland) uphold the principles and practices of racial equality.

Police Scotland works with the Diversity Staff Associations and the Scottish Government will continue to engage with them regarding value for money of the funding, evidencing the impact of the associations’ work and how best we can assist the service to reach its equality and diversity targets.

In January 2023, His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) published the terms of reference of its thematic inspection of organisational culture in Police Scotland. The inspection is currently underway and will make an assessment as to whether Police Scotland has a healthy organisational culture and ethical framework and whether the appropriate values and behaviours are consistently lived across the organisation. HMICS are due to publish a report of their thematic findings in the summer 2023.



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