Tackling prejudice and building connected communities: Scottish Government response

Our response to the report of the Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion.

Policy Context

A cohesive society is one with a common vision and a sense of belonging by all communities; a society in which the diversity of people's backgrounds and circumstances is appreciated and valued; and a society in which similar life opportunities are available to all. The Scottish Government is committed to building strong, resilient and supportive communities, and ensuring that community cohesion is maintained and strengthened is key to this. Community cohesion is absolutely essential in ensuring that we are truly 'One Scotland' where people live in peace and everyone has the opportunity to flourish. Hate crime and prejudice threaten community cohesion, and have a corrosive impact on Scotland's minority communities as well as broader society. We believe that it is never acceptable and we are committed to tackling it.

Scotland is becoming a more diverse country, particularly with free movement of people from other parts of Europe to Scotland and with the arrival of refugees and asylum seekers from other countries. Shifting cultural attitudes over years and decades have created a climate where diversity is much more accepted and recognised within society, and individuals and communities feel more able to celebrate their identities. We do not articulate what 'Scottish values' are in the same way that the UK Government has articulated 'British values', nor do we seek to. Nevertheless, we have spoken of common themes that run throughout Scottish society, including traditions of fairness, a collective spirit, a commitment to equality and a respect for rights. This is the broad vision to which the Government holds.

It is important in this not to project any sense of complacency or "Scottish exceptionalism". Prejudice continues to permeate parts of Scottish society, and a significant minority of the Scottish population continue to feel it is acceptable to hold prejudicial views. Minorities continue to experience hate crime and prejudice in their daily lives. Social attitudes are influenced by the prevailing media narrative, often around international events, that can sometimes inflame tensions and seek to characterise communities in negative ways. More broadly, persistent inequalities continue to be rooted within Scottish society and there remains much more to do to deliver true equality and equality of opportunity for everyone in Scotland.

Scotland's national outcomes set out that our collective vision is for a more equal Scotland where young people are confident and responsible citizens; we have strong, resilient, supportive and safe communities where people take responsibility for their own actions and how they affect others; that we tackle the inequalities in Scotland; and we take pride in a strong, fair and inclusive national identity. In response to the Christie Commission, our approach has a focus on prevention, on continual improvement, and working in partnership at both national level and locally. We have worked hard over many years to build close relationships and partnerships with Scotland's diverse communities and, in our work to create an inclusive and cohesive Scotland, we value diverse communities for themselves and for their wider societal and economic contributions. We value people's and communities' assets and strengths, and through focusing on these strengths we help to create conditions that foster good relations, develop social capital and build capacity within communities to improve outcomes. Working with communities in this way enables people to shape and co-produce the services they use, drawing on their knowledge and skills to develop person-centred solutions.

Frequent engagement at Ministerial and official level with community leaders enables a collective approach to deliver outcomes, as well as an opportunity to discuss their issues and concerns. Positive relationships are also fostered with communities through Police Scotland's approach to engaging and providing community reassurance as required, and Police Scotland have well developed critical links with numerous community groups and strategic stakeholders at a local and national level. We have supported third sector organisations working towards race and religious equality; published a Race Equality Framework to tackle racism and race discrimination; and published Scotland's ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Strategy, setting out our approach to English language provision to enable new Scots to integrate and contribute to Scottish life through work, study, family and local communities. We promote dialogue and understanding between different faiths (along with those with no faith) and seek to foster an atmosphere where diversity is seen as a strength and there is mutual understanding of different ways of life.

We recognise too the danger from people who seek to spread hate and disrupt our way of life. We have demonstrated that we will take robust action to challenge intolerance, prejudice and discrimination. We are strongly committed to keeping Scotland safe, and where individuals or groups try to use violence or the threat of violence to advance their aims, we will work with others to firmly counter them. Whilst it is clear that we are taking action to build an inclusive, cohesive and safe Scotland, we are not complacent and there remains more to be done. We will continue to develop our approach towards an inclusive and cohesive Scotland, with the actions outlined in this response forming part of that work.


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