Stand Up to Bullying Campaign

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 6th September 2016.

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Photo of Annie Wells Annie Wells Conservative

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate today and to raise awareness of the credible stand up to bullying campaign.

It is easy to think of bullying in a very set way. I am sure that the image that springs to most people’s minds is of the school bully harassing his or her peers outside the school gates. Although that undoubtedly occurs and we should be doing everything that we can to stop it, I want to highlight—as the previous member did—the effects that bullying has on people of all ages and backgrounds.

In recent years, bullying has taken on new forms through social media and the internet. I was deeply disturbed to learn back in July about the death of a young girl from Glasgow—Britney Mazzoncini—who as a result of cyberbullying took her own life at the age of just 16. Another Glasgow teenager attempted to take his own life only last month as a result of online bullying.

Time and again, I hear jibes and comments to the effect that victims of cyberbullying should simply turn off their computers. Fulton MacGregor referred in his speech to that attitude, which I find frustrating—as, I am sure, many others do. The simpler solution is that bullying should not occur in the first place.

I am pleased that Police Scotland is taking steps to tackle bullying. It put out a statement last month warning parents that they must prepare their children for the dangers of bullying, and referred them to a number of useful websites including respectme.org.uk, getsafeonline.org and thinkuknow.co.uk. The statement assured them that internet trolls would be traced and prosecuted for their actions online. However, I am under no illusions about the fact that more still needs to be done, which is why I support Fulton MacGregor’s motion on raising awareness of cyberbullying.

To link back to my original point, I was pleased to see the efforts of the University of Glasgow, which carried out a notable campaign last year seeking to widen people’s knowledge of bullying and looking at what can be done. The university launched on its campus an anti-bullying campaign to tackle casual discrimination among students and staff. The full stop campaign highlighted offensive comments that were not necessarily deemed to be blatantly offensive by using posters that set out example quotes in isolation.

I turn my attention now to issues around lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex bullying. Members of all parties in the chamber believe that LGBTI bullying must come to an end. As an LGBTI person, I suffered bullying at school. That was quite some time ago when I was 13, but 30 years on we are still speaking about it. How do we make it better? How do we get the situation resolved and put a stop to it?

TIE—time for inclusive education—campaign’s research reported that 64 per cent of LGBT youth reported being bullied as a result of their gender identity or sexual orientation, and that a shocking 37 per cent had attempted suicide at least once as a result of being bullied. To tackle the issue, TIE has called for cross-party working groups. I know that there is cross-party support among members and that, at Glasgow’s pride march a few weeks ago, there was a full show of support. I would like to see the issue being tackled across all parties, and the implementation of LGBT-inclusive education as a legislative matter. TIE’s proposals are great and I would like the topic to be debated in the chamber in the future.

I echo the sentiments that have been shown by everyone in the chamber on the stand up to bullying campaign. I also congratulate Diana Award for its efforts. As with most things, awareness is crucial—I hope that the campaign will go some way to altering mindsets.