Welcome pack for New Scots

The New Scots vision is “For a welcoming Scotland where refugees and asylum seekers are able to rebuild their lives from the day they arrive”.

Community safety

Scots law

Scots law is the legal system in Scotland, and although elements in the Scottish legal system are similar to those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are important differences between Scots law, English law and Northern Irish law. You can find out more about Scots law on the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (Scotland's prosecution service) website.

In Scotland, the criminal law can be different to that of the rest of the UK. For example, the Scottish Parliament passed the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019 that made all forms of physical punishment of a child unlawful.

Legal rights and responsibilities

Scotland is a modern, inclusive nation which respects, protects and fulfils internationally recognised human rights. The Scottish Government and other public authorities in Scotland have a duty to respect, protect and fulfil the rights set out in human rights treaties. We are committed to working with the whole of Scottish society to ensure that everyone can live a life of human dignity.

Every person in Scotland has the same basic human rights and freedoms, which are protected in law. For example, every person has:

  • a right to liberty
  • freedom of thought and the right to practice their religion

However it is illegal if, as part of this, you take part in activities which break laws legislated within the UK and Scottish Parliaments. It is against the law to discriminate against or persecute someone because of their beliefs.

Based on the rights and freedoms protected in law, everyone living in or visiting the UK is expected to adhere to a set of shared values and responsibilities:

  • respect and obey the law
  • respect the rights of others, including their right to their own opinions
  • treat others with fairness

In the UK it is illegal to treat anyone differently because of their protected characteristics. These are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

You should not be treated any differently because of any protected characteristic when applying for a job, looking for somewhere to live, using the National Health Service (NHS) or just buying something in a shop.

Hate crime

Hate crime is the term used to describe behaviour which is both criminal and rooted in prejudice. It can take many different forms – including verbal and physical abuse – and has hugely damaging effects on victims, their families and communities.

Current hate crime laws in Scotland allow any existing criminal offence (assault, threatening or abusive behaviour) to be aggravated by prejudice – this includes prejudice based on race, religion, disability, transgender identity and sexual orientation.

Hate crimes are unacceptable and will not be tolerated in Scotland. It is a serious offence to injure, harass or verbally abuse someone because of their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.

If you or someone you know is the victim of hate crime you should tell the police

If you do not feel comfortable contacting the police, you can do so through a third party reporting centre. Third party reporting centres allow people to tell the police about a hate crime without contacting them directly. Examples of third party reporting centres range housing associations to victim support offices and voluntary groups, where their specially trained staff will provide support and assistance in submitting a report to Police Scotland on your behalf.

Keeping women and girls safe

Violence against women is a fundamental violation of human rights and is unacceptable. In Scotland you can access frontline services which support both male and female victims and survivors of domestic abuse, and rape and sexual assault.

Domestic abuse

The Scottish Government's message to those suffering domestic abuse is very clear– you are not alone, you do not have to wait and you should not hesitate to come forward and get help.

Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) see domestic abuse as:

"Any form of physical, verbal, sexual, psychological or financial abuse which might amount to criminal conduct and which takes place within the context of a relationship.

The relationship will be between partners (married, cohabiting, civil partnership or otherwise) or ex-partners. The abuse may be committed in the home or elsewhere including online".

Domestic abuse is not just physical. It can happen in many ways. Domestic abuse can include:

  • being threatened
  • name calling
  • controlling what you do, where you go and who you speak to
  • threatening your children
  • not being allowed see your friends and family
  • accusing you of cheating
  • threatening to out your sexual orientation
  • sharing - or threatening to share - intimate images of you with family, friends or work colleagues
  • being hit, kicked, punched, or have objects thrown at you
  • rape, being forced into sexual acts.

How to report domestic abuse

If you, or someone you know, is at risk of domestic abuse, please contact Police Scotland.

You can contact Police Scotland via their online reporting form. If the abuse is ongoing please always phone 101, or 999 in an emergency.

Police Scotland can also provide information on how to keep you and your loved safe.

Support and advice can be provided by local women's aids across Scotland and you can contact Scotland's Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline on 0800 027 1234 where support is available 24/7

There are 17 rape crisis centres across Scotland available to offer support, and the National Rape Crisis Helpline can offer support from 6.00pm to midnight 7 days a week on 08088 01 03 02. Rape Crisis Scotland provides support to survivors of all genders, including men and all trans and non-binary people.

Rape and sexual crime

The only person to blame for sexual offending is the perpetrator. Police Scotland recognise how difficult it can be to report sexual crime and are there to help and support you.

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted:

  • you do not have to cope on your own
  • there are many support services that can help you
  • officers of Police Scotland know how difficult it is for people to report rape, they will respect you and believe you
  • you are not to blame, the person who raped or assaulted you is to blame

Police Scotland can be contacted via 101 or in an emergency always call 999.

Advice and support

NHS Sexual Assault Response Coordination Service (SARCS) is a dedicated NHS service which can offer healthcare and support in the days after an assault, if you are not ready to tell the police or are unsure.

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted within the last 7 days and do not want to tell the police or are unsure about telling them now - you can self-refer to a SARCS. This means you do not need a GP or other healthcare professional to refer you to a SARCS - you can do this yourself.

Rape Crisis Scotland provides support to survivors of all genders, including men and all trans and non-binary people. The National Rape Crisis Helpline can offer support from 6pm to midnight, 7 days a week, on 08088 01 03 02. In addition there are 17 rape crisis centres across Scotland available to offer advice and support.

Honour based violence, female genital mutilation and forced marriage

We are committed to tackling 'honour based' violence such as Female Genital Mutilation and Forced Marriage. We also considers so called virginity testing and hymenoplasty to be a form of gender based violence. The existence of these procedures directly relates to the strict expectations regarding women's sexual "purity" within some cultures or communities. Perpetrators of honour-based violence will usually justify their behaviour by referencing these beliefs alongside various other socio-cultural factors; this includes references to fixed gender roles that perceive women and girls as gatekeepers of their family's honour. The concept of "honour" is a construct – one that reflects unacceptable gender discrimination against women and girls.

If you're concerned about a girl of any age who may be at risk of honour based abuse you can:

  • contact the police
  • contact the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) on 0800 028 3550 (24 hour helpline)
  • call the Scottish Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline on 0800 027 1234 (24 hour helpline) for guidance and support
  • speak to a teacher or any health professional

Child sexual abuse and exploitation

Child sexual abuse involves a child or young person engaging in activity for the sexual gratification of another adult, child or young person. It is never the child or young person's fault. Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse in which a person or person of any age takes advantage of a power imbalance to entice, force or persuade a child or young person into engaging in sexual activity, in return for something received by the child and/or those perpetrating or facilitating the abuse. Child sexual abuse can take place in person or online and it can be a one off event or occur over long periods of time.

Abuse involves serious crime and isn't something that you need to deal with alone.

If you believe a child or young person is at risk call Police Scotland on 101. If you think they may be in immediate danger 999 and speak to the Police immediately. Officers from Police Scotland will contact you to find out what has happened and will work with you to ensure your child is safe. Specialist Child Protection officers that work jointly with Child Protection Social Work will listen and speak to your child to find out what has happened to them. All incidents of child abuse and exploitation will be investigated by Police Scotland.

The police and their duties

The police exist to protect the public, their rights and the law. The police are there to help and assist you and you should not be afraid to approach them if you are the victim of a crime, see a crime happening, or for general assistance for example if you are lost.

Contacting the police


If you need to contact the police in an emergency and for serious incidents where you or another person is at risk of harm then you should call 999. When you call, say you need the 'police', as this is also the number to call an ambulance or the fire service.


If you need the police but it is not an emergency, you should call 101. This non-emergency number will make it quicker and easier for you to contact the police when you don't need an emergency response, for example if you need to speak to your local police officer or report a crime that has already happened, such as a theft or damage to property. Alternatively, reports can be made online by completing Police Scotland's online reporting form.

If you would like to make a complaint in relation to the level of service you have received, you can complain directly to Police Scotland via their online form or attend a Police Office. You can also complain to the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC) in Scotland, whose role is to impartially, and independent of the police, investigate conduct and behaviour.

In the event of a fire

Please visit Scottish Fire and Rescue Service website see a guide on how to keep safe in the event of fire.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are the world's fourth largest fire and rescue service and are committed to ensuring our safety and wellbeing.


Email: ceu@gov.scot

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