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I start by simply stating that there is never an excuse for hate crime and prejudice and that this Government is absolutely committed to tackling it, wherever it happens, whenever it happens and whoever it happens to.
People who do not experience it might not always see it, but the reality is that an attack on one is an attack on all of us. I know that that view is shared by members across this Parliament.
The report of the independent advisory group on hate crime, prejudice and community cohesion was published recently. I thank Dr Duncan Morrow and the other members of the group for their insightful, cross-cutting report, which contains recommendations that reach across Government and society. We accept the recommendations in the report and will use them to inform an inclusive and wide-ranging programme of work. This debate is an opportunity for the Parliament to inform and shape that work as we move forward together.
When I read Dr Morrow’s report, I was struck by the personal testimony of people who have experienced prejudice and hate. It is imperative that we do not lose those personal insights and experiences when we discuss our approach, policies and laws. We know that there are people who experience what is sometimes described as “low-level” persistent abuse and harassment, and that they experience it many times a day, in public—on transport, at school—at home or at work. Those experiences and personal testimonies are very much reflected in the breadth and depth of the recommendations that Dr Morrow and his colleagues made in their report.
Such experiences are traumatic for individuals and deeply damaging to communities and community cohesion. Whole communities can end up isolating themselves from society and enjoying fewer opportunities to interact and engage with others. That makes for weaker integration and interaction across communities. It is simply not good enough that people in our country experience such prejudice. I repeat: wherever it happens, whenever it happens and whoever it happens to, it needs to be tackled and it needs to stop.
A hate crime is a criminal act that is committed on the basis of prejudice. The crime must be dealt with; we also need to tackle its root causes, which are prejudice and inequality. If we do not do so, we will not achieve truly cohesive communities in which individuals and groups can live in peace, benefit from diversity and work together to build a better society. As we know, prejudice acts as a barrier to cohesion and hate crime is quite simply an attack on it.
Scotland is a diverse, multicultural society and its diversity is a strength. We need to make those words a reality. We have a proud history of welcoming people of all faiths and nationalities to Scotland, from Irish immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries and Italians during the pre-war period to people from India and Pakistan post world war 2 and, more recently, Syrians who are fleeing war and terror. Scotland’s response to the people who have come here has demonstrated the best of this country as we have stepped up to the plate and reached out to people who are most in need of our help.
Attitudes have changed. The most recent Scottish social attitudes survey, which was published in September, found that there has been a decrease in discriminatory attitudes among Scots to all equality groups. Nearly 70 per cent of the people who were surveyed thought that Scotland should do everything possible to eradicate prejudice. We should celebrate such changes in attitude.
However, there are concerns. It is important to look at the granular detail in the evidence that comes from the Scottish social attitudes survey and elsewhere. We know that around a fifth of people in Scotland still think that it is acceptable to hold prejudicial views sometimes. Many people are still expressing concerns about the impact of immigration, and some say that they would not want a member of their family to marry someone from a certain background. In addition, attitudes towards transgender people and Gypsy Travellers are simply not improving fast enough. Although I remain confident that the upward trajectory of more positive attitudes will continue, I know that that will happen only if we take a multidisciplinary, multifaceted approach. We must continue to talk up the benefits of equality, diversity and inclusion in our society, and we must never hesitate to shine a light on prejudice where it exists.
In Scotland, we are fortunate not to have seen a rise in the incidence of hate crime following the European Union referendum, unlike in other parts of the UK. However, we must remain vigilant, avoid complacency and recognise that developments have caused anxiety among the 181,000 EU nationals who have made Scotland their home. We understand that, and I reiterate what the First Minister and many members of the Government and the Parliament have made crystal clear. We say to them: “Scotland is your home, you are welcome here and we value the contribution that you make to our country; our country, which is now your country.” That should be the strong message that we send to EU nationals living in Scotland and to those from across the planet who have made their life in Scotland either through choice or through circumstance. The UK Government could take one simple step right now to ease the minds of EU nationals who have made Scotland their home: it could guarantee their residency status. We will continue to call on the Prime Minister to do the right thing and give that guarantee.
We must also recognise that tackling hate crime is about more than reporting a crime to the police, crucial though that is, particularly considering the work that we need to do to encourage and support people to report crime. The point that I want to make is about the importance of equality. Equality is at the heart of our mission to create a fairer Scotland, and it is imperative that we do that for all who have made their lives in Scotland.
Since 2007, we have invested over £195 million, through the equality budget, in promoting equality and tackling discrimination. We have strengthened the law to tackle hate crime and we are engaging with communities all over Scotland, working with them to make their lives better. We will also ensure that our education system plays a full part in tackling discrimination in all its forms, with all teachers getting equality training. As many members will know, we are refreshing our approach to the national anti-bullying strategy, which will include an explicit commitment to address prejudice-based bullying in all its forms. We have also produced a race equality framework, we are taking radical steps to advance lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex equality and we are working hard to level the playing field for disabled people. We will introduce the disability delivery plan in the very near future.
We want to advance opportunities for everyone. I hope that that is a sign of the society that we aspire to be—one in which no one is held back and in which Scotland’s core values of equality, fairness, social justice and dignity are translated into real lives and real action for everyone who lives here. The report of the advisory group on hate crime, prejudice and community cohesion makes it clear that it is everyone’s issue and everyone’s business; it is not a matter for just the Government or the Parliament, important though our responsibilities are. An important recommendation in Dr Morrow’s report is that public education should be undertaken to improve the understanding of the nature and extent of hate crime. That is critical to addressing the underreporting of hate crime.
We will launch a campaign next year to raise awareness of the impacts of hate crime and the support that is available in communities for those who experience hate crime or prejudice, or for those who fear it. That is just one step and I will provide a fuller response to the advisory group’s report and set out an inclusive and wide-ranging approach to tackling those issues.
It is incumbent upon us all to challenge prejudice, discrimination and hate crime, and we accept the amendments lodged by Annie Wells and Pauline McNeill to today’s motion. The motion commits us to work together and we must work together if we are to create a Scotland—one Scotland—in which there is no place for hatred or prejudice.
Nelson Mandela challenged hate throughout his life. He once said:
“No-one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and, if they can learn to hate, they can be taught love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
I hope that we will move forward in that spirit in today’s debate, which will inform our actions to create a fairer and more equal Scotland.
That the Parliament condemns all forms of hate crime and prejudice; welcomes the recent report of the Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion; thanks the group for this work and the recommendations made, which will inform future action in this area; notes its view that the current approach to tackling hate crime is appreciated; agrees that Scotland has a long history of welcoming people of all nationalities and faiths; considers that non-British EU nationals living in Scotland are welcome here, they belong here and that their contribution is appreciated; commends the role of Police Scotland and third party reporting centres in responding to reports of hate crime, and encourages people to report all hate crime whenever and wherever it takes place, and agrees to work together to stand up to, and eradicate, hate crime and prejudice in Scotland.
We are all in agreement today that hate crimes in Scotland, as well as across the UK, should never be tolerated and that, as politicians, we should do all that we can to ensure that everyone living here feels welcome—including EU and non-EU nationals.
I have just started, so please let me make some progress.
Hate crime is not limited solely to race and nationality. Hate crime comes in many forms, many of which are on the increase and are vastly underreported. As well as those that are racially aggravated, there are hate crimes based on religion, disability, sexual orientation, transgender identity and those that are classed under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012.
I want to ask why the Scottish National Party has become so obsessed with linking hate crime to Brexit, despite Police Scotland reporting that there was no increase in the number of hate crimes reported in Scotland this summer. In fact, the number of hate crimes in Scotland actually fell in the aftermath of the EU referendum. I do not want to undermine in any way the importance of this debate and of race crimes in general. There have been alarming incidences of racially aggravated hate crime reported in my constituency, as well as in other parts of the UK, but it is important to make that point on behalf of the 1 million people in Scotland, and the 17.5 million people in the UK as a whole, who voted to leave the EU. It is dangerous to continually link the Brexit vote to hate crime and it completely undermines those who voted that way.
I want to make progress.
Voting to leave the EU and addressing hate crime are not mutually exclusive. I would like to remind the equalities secretary and the First Minister to look at their own party—Alex Neil and the secret few who voted to leave the EU on 23 June—before wagging their fingers at the UK Government and the Scottish Conservatives. That is before I mention the estimated 400,000 SNP supporters who backed Brexit.
I am proud that people in this country tolerate one another’s beliefs and actively celebrate society’s diversity. As the Government’s motion rightly points out, Scotland has a long history of welcoming people of all nationalities and faiths. Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that more than 7 per cent of the Scottish population was born outside the UK and that nearly 6 per cent of the population holds non-British nationality.
The Prime Minister has already spoken on the issue, stating that she fully expects and intends for the status of EU citizens to be guaranteed. The only situation in which that would not be the case is if the future rights of UK citizens were not protected elsewhere in the EU. At the Conservative party conference last month, Ruth Davidson made a positive case for ensuring that EU citizens are made to feel welcome in the UK. Why does the SNP continue to scaremonger about that issue?
As I say, we have not actually done anything to trigger article 50 yet, so we do not know what the other EU countries are going to say either. We can say that the Prime Minister has stated that it is her full intention and expectation that EU citizens will be protected. That is what I can say about that. I do not think that any of us in the chamber can say any more at the moment because nothing has been done yet.
To move away from racially aggravated hate crime, I would like to bring attention to other forms of hate crime that have been so conveniently ignored by the SNP. The report by the independent advisory group, which was welcomed by Angela Constance, raises a number of issues regarding Scotland’s tackling of hate crime—namely, that although racially aggravated hate crime has not increased, the number of hate crimes reported relating to disability and sexual orientation are rapidly on the increase.
The “Hate Crime in Scotland 2015-16” report noted that although race hate crime has decreased by 3 per cent since 2014-15, sexual orientation hate crime has risen by an alarming 20 per cent. That is backed up by the TIE—time for inclusive education—campaign’s research, which reported that 64 per cent of LGBTI 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 the bullying.
Although I welcome the great work that has been done by the Equality Network and Police Scotland in a programme that intends to provide training for police officers as LGBTI liaison officers, more needs to be done.
When the advisory report itself states that schools need to be better equipped to tackle LGBTI bullying, the Scottish Government should, at the very least, open up the debate about inclusive education as a legislative measure.
We need more than the First Minister tokenistically attaching herself to LGBTI campaigns and then doing nothing in the way of following through with policies.
Furthermore, I want to talk about hate crime directed at transgender people specifically. The advisory report flags important issues regarding transgender people: according to statistical analysis, hate crime against transgender people is notably underreported in Scotland as compared with England.
Another figure that I am sure will raise concern is that disability hate crime has risen by an alarming 14 per cent in the last year alone—another form of hate crime that continues to be underreported. Frank Mulholland QC warned the SNP-led Government in 2014 that not enough was being done in terms of law enforcement and that disabled people were not confident enough in the system to report such crimes.
Another issue that I would like to raise is online bullying. It is an issue that we can all agree has grown exponentially in the last decade, so why are we still awaiting the Scottish Government’s updated internet safety action plan—last published in 2010?
Given the SNP’s rhetoric and its obsession with trying to link racial hate crime with Brexit, it is no surprise to learn that participants in the study felt that some types of hate crime received more attention and were better understood than others.
That is why I call on the SNP Government to stop the Brexit bashing—the end goal of which we all know—and to address the hate crimes that it has so conveniently turned a blind eye to.
Disability hate crime is on the rise and sexual orientation hate crime is on the rise. The motion—
I am actually just at the end of my speech—sorry.
The motion raises a very important issue regarding deplorable acts of racial hate crime but I say to the SNP, please do not try to capitalise on a trend that has not even been seen in Scotland to try to further the case for your independence drive.
I move amendment S5M-02364.2, to leave out from “agrees that Scotland” to “responding to reports of ” and insert:
“suggests that further action be taken to address the underreporting of disability, sexual orientation and transgender hate crime; agrees that Scotland has a long history of welcoming people of all nationalities and faiths; considers that both non-British EU nationals and non-EU nationals living in Scotland are welcome here, they belong here and that their contribution is appreciated; commends the role of Police Scotland and third party reporting centres in responding to reports of hate crime; supports the continued cooperation with third party organisations in training police officers to tackle LGBTI”.
I recently had the pleasure of discussing the equality agenda with Tim Hopkins from the Equality Network. He reminded me how far we have come on lesbian and gay equality but also how far we still have to go in respect of transgender and bisexual people. I thank the Equality Network and the whole third sector for the work that they do every day not just to promote equality but to provide basic support in the fight for justice on behalf of minorities and underrepresented people in Scotland.
As a demonstration of how far we have to go in every area of equality law, the crime statistics in relation to disabled people are horrifying. Although I have some criticisms of the Scottish Government, I will not lay any blame at its door when it comes to how disabled people have been treated in Scotland.
Reports indicate that disabled children and young people are three to four times more likely to be abused or neglected than their non-disabled peers are.
As has been mentioned, the number of attacks on disabled people in general has increased by 14 per cent, and half of disabled women have experienced domestic abuse. Those figures are staggering and horrific.
Incidents of Islamophobia have tripled—a majority of Scottish Muslim pupils have experienced it and are frequently called names such as “terrorist” and “the Taliban”. Sikh and Hindu pupils often suffer the same abuse, for reasons that I am sure that I do not need to go into.
One third of transgender people experience abuse but, alarmingly, 80 per cent of that abuse is not reported. According to the Equality Network, only one in 10 hate crimes is reported. For the first time, however, more lesbian, gay and bisexual people have said that they are satisfied than have said that they are dissatisfied with the police response, so it is important to note that there are areas of progress.
The theme of underreporting is prevalent in the report that we are discussing. Third-party reporting appears to be completely underused, which is why Labour believes that the Scottish Government must do more to resource the system in general, so that people have the confidence to come forward. We want to encourage more diversity in the justice system so that people feel better represented. Schools are also at the forefront of teaching children that difference is to be understood and respected, and that needs to be applied in wider society.
We live in extraordinary times, when the question of race has probably never been so topical and the equality agenda has never been so diverse. Indeed, there is no time more extraordinary than today, as we are only just waking up to smell the napalm. This morning, David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, tweeted:
I am sure that, like me, many members are bleary-eyed from watching the dreaded American result come in. My brilliant former intern Rachel Craig posted on Facebook this week that, as a young Jewish woman, she is proud to be American. She said that prejudice is not fun: America is a country of immigrants and there is no room for Trump rhetoric, which is the antithesis of the principles on which America was founded.
The global backdrop is entirely relevant in assessing current attitudes to race and immigration. Foreign interventions have had a direct impact in bringing about the refugee crisis. In my first speech in this session of Parliament, standing right where I am now, I said:
“Even the brilliant Stephen Hawking cannot explain the horror of the Trump phenomenon, but we had better try to understand it because, unfortunately, it might happen.”—[
, 2 June 2016; c 39.]
Today, the world is dealing with the consequences of failing to try to understand such seismic events.
The Scottish Government motion focuses on the independent advisory group’s report on hate crime, prejudice and community cohesion and proclaims
“that Scotland has a long history of welcoming people of all nationalities”.
That is generally true, and we are proud of our local government colleagues in Glasgow in particular for the role that they have played in that respect. The city that I represent has recently accepted 35 young people from the Calais camp. However, we must recognise that the story is not always as we would like it to be. Many Irish Catholic immigrants have historically faced direct discrimination in Scotland, and we must be honest in appraising the difficult issues in the debate.
In celebrating our achievements, we must note that, although Scotland has half the number of foreign-born people that England has, there are similar attitudes to immigration here. A YouGov poll for the BBC that was conducted last year found that 49 per cent of people in Scotland—exactly the same percentage as in the rest of the UK—thought that immigration was an issue and wanted to see less of it. Those results make for uncomfortable reading.
There are many myths about immigration—for example, there is no correlation between high levels of immigration and lower wage growth. According to Ipsos MORI, British people think that there are twice as many immigrants in the UK as there actually are and that the number of Muslims is four times the actual figure. The head of Ipsos MORI stated:
“These misperceptions present clear issues for informed public debate”.
Through the Labour amendment, we want to add a few points that we think are worthy of mention, on issues such as the role of the media and encouraging more diversity in the criminal justice workforce. The recent decision to allow Muslim women to wear the hijab as part of their police uniform will be a positive step if it encourages such women to come forward and serve in our police force.
We will support the Government motion and the Tory amendment, although I am not sure that Annie Wells’s speech bore complete relation to that amendment. However, she made a valid point with regard to the headlines that suggest that hate crime levels have reduced in Scotland since the Brexit vote. It is true that race crime levels have decreased by 3 per cent, which is welcome, but it is way too early to draw any direct conclusions from that, so we should refrain from doing so.
I welcome the debate. We will vote with the Government and the Tories at decision time.
I move amendment S5M-02364.1, to leave out from “commends” to “reports of hate crime” and insert:
“agrees that the media has a critical role in shaping social attitudes, and appreciates the role of education in raising awareness to counteract negative stereotypes; supports a zero-tolerance approach to hate crime across Scotland; understands the need to increase diversity within the workforce of the criminal justice system; commends the work of the third sector in raising awareness, tackling prejudice and promoting equality; further commends the role of Police Scotland and third party reporting centres in responding to reports of hate crime and stresses the need for more resources to be allocated to them”.
We move to the open debate, in which speeches will be of about six minutes. I have a wee bit of time in hand to make up for interventions if members take them, but do not go over the top, Mr Dornan.
I do not understand why you named me there, Presiding Officer.
I said to Annie Wells on the way into the chamber that I would try not to have a go at her but, unfortunately, I have to pick up two aspects of her speech. She seemed to say that, when we attack the impact of the Brexit vote, we attack people who voted no. There has never been any suggestion of that. We have attacked the language that has been used by certain people, mostly down south, who campaigned for no. That language has created some of the culture that we have seen over the past year or so. Two separate things are involved.
Annie Wells criticised the Scottish Government and the First Minister for a lack of action and for signing up to something then not doing anything about it. However, in May, the ILGA—the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association—said that Scotland is the best place in Europe for gay, bisexual and lesbian people. We are at 94 per cent on the ILGA’s measure, but the UK as a whole has dropped to 82 per cent, which is below Malta. I therefore do not think that Annie Wells’s argument stands up. I am more than happy to take an intervention from her on that.
The point that I was making in relation to LGBTI issues was about the time for inclusive education campaign, which has been running for more than a year. The Scottish Government has paid lip service to that for more than a year. I do not want just words on a bit of paper; I want proper action on inclusive education in schools.
I support the campaign for more inclusive education in schools, but it is a wee bit unrealistic to expect a result from a campaign that has been going for only a year and which started from nothing. If I am correct, that campaign is already having close conversations with members of the Government. Plans are afoot, although I am not aware of what is happening.
My next point follows on from the discussion that we just had. If there is one thing that the past year has reinforced for us as politicians, it is the importance of using words carefully. The cabinet secretary talked about the language that the First Minister used the morning after the Brexit vote, when she told people that Scotland is their home and that their contribution is valued. We should compare that with some of the frankly xenophobic and racist language that is being used by politicians down south. Unfortunately, the use of that did not finish after the horrendous yes to Brexit vote in June.
Last month, the hashtag #WeAreScotland swept across social media in response to a xenophobic and divisive suggestion by the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, that businesses should list any foreign workers and should be encouraged to hire British workers in order to reduce net migration. Those proposals were met with anger not only across Scotland but across the business community.
I am now thinking of just saying anything that comes into my head, because nothing that I know of in reality is anywhere close to the point that Liam Kerr espoused.
The business community was outraged and senior figures said that the plans were completely irresponsible and would damage the UK economy, because foreign workers are hired to fill gaps in skills that British workers cannot fill. So damaging and divisive were the plans that Amber Rudd’s own back benchers were deeply critical and sceptical. Our First Minister responded that she would absolutely stand four-square behind any company that refused to comply with a request to publish details of foreign workers.
Since then, Amber Rudd has somewhat backtracked on the proposals, but the damage has been done. When senior politicians spout such xenophobic rhetoric, we should not be surprised when we see a rise in hate crimes that are targeted at non-UK EU nationals who choose to live in this country. The reports of members of the Polish community who were attacked so brutally that they had to be hospitalised—in one tragic case, someone died—should send a massive warning to the UK Government that we need action to encourage inclusivity of our communities, not deeply divisive policies that can only harm the colourful tapestry of life in this country.
In sharp contrast, I was deeply heartened by the Scottish people’s response. The #WeAreScotland hashtag was not simply a three-word sentence; it was used as a way for people up and down the country to tell their story and tell others what makes Scotland their home, why they came here—it was clearly not the weather—and how much they love being Scottish, regardless of their varied and diverse ethnicities. Scottish nationals responded with statements of warmth, of welcoming and of thanks for foreign nationals who choose to bring their skills and culture here and greatly enrich our economy, culture and communities.
The truth is that, after the Brexit vote, many people contacted my office because things were so bad. My Westminster colleague Stewart McDonald and I had to send a letter to all the EU nationals in our constituencies to let them know that we are aware of their concerns, that we consider ourselves lucky that they have made Glasgow their home and that we are happy to welcome them for as long as we can. The unfortunate thing is that how long that will be for is not in our hands; it is in the hands of the Tory Government.
Surely no member of this Parliament can deny that one of the catastrophic fallouts of Brexit has been the rise in hate crime, but the problem is not just Brexit. The charity Muslim Engagement and Development, which is UK wide, noted the rise in hate crime towards members of the Muslim community after the Paris attacks. Devastatingly, those attacks seemed to trigger an upsurge in crimes that were aimed at people of the Islamic faith, with graffiti on businesses, verbal attacks in the street and, in some cases, worse. Although the hate crime figures after the Paris attack were much higher UK wide than they were in Scotland, the victim trends were similar across the board. Muslim women in particular were being singled out because it was easy to identify them if they were wearing a hijab.
Let me be clear that Islamophobic hate crime is not the only religion-based problem in Scotland. I will not get into the age-old one that we have had for a long time, but there have been a number of anti-Semitic incidents across the country. Verbal attacks and neo-Nazi salutes are not acceptable in Scotland in 2016. No person—be they Muslim, Jewish, Christian or of any other religion—should live in fear of physical or verbal abuse because of their beliefs.
Although Scotland woke up this morning to one of the biggest election shocks in recent history, we must accept the democratic will of the American people. However, reports of fear and alarm are already pouring out of the Muslim and immigrant communities across America and we are seeing social media posts of people removing their hijab for their safety.
Such fear and intimidation have no place in this open and inclusive Scotland. I am confident that everyone in the chamber will support me in that and support the Government motion. There will be no building of walls here in Scotland. Let us send out the message loud and clear from this place that Scotland is your home and your contribution is valued.
Today’s debate on preventing and eradicating hate crime and prejudice provides a welcome opportunity to raise awareness about, and to endeavour to address, that vexing issue. Sadly, an array of attitudes and behaviours can be categorised as “hate crime”. In the time that is available to me I will focus on three particular aspects.
The first is termed “revenge porn”, and involves sharing intimate images without consent. The Justice Committee of session 4 tackled the issue in its final bill, in March this year. It was described as one of the most insidious crimes and one that can have far reaching and lifelong consequences for its victims. Members of the committee heard evidence from witnesses that revenge porn can have a “devastating and humiliating effect” on people’s lives.
Witnesses also stated that a specific offence to tackle the issue would
“send out a clear message that society does not tolerate that behaviour, clear up uncertainties about whether the behaviour is legal or not, and might have a deterrent effect.”
It is therefore welcome that, once the act comes into force, it will criminalise non-consensual disclosing of, or threat to disclose, intimate photographs or films, thereby providing a deterrent to misuse of modern technology for dissemination and promotion of revenge porn. Activities that can be described as revenge porn have quite rightly received a considerable amount of media attention during the past few years.
In contrast, the second form of hate crime that I want to highlight involves disabled people and has been less prominent in the public eye. It is very much present in society today and includes wide-ranging instances of ridicule and abuse being directed at disabled people. Those who have been targeted include elderly people. An old woman who relies on a walking stick was the subject of a torrent of abuse without any provocation, and had her handbag knocked off her seat while she was travelling on a train. Veterans who have disabilities have been openly mocked and jeered, and people who have learning difficulties have been made fun of and bullied.
I am pleased to hear Margaret Mitchell call out some of the crimes that are faced by people who have disabilities. In the light of that revelation from Margaret Mitchell today—I know that she has a long-held commitment to the matter—will she commit to signing my motion in Parliament this week on the United Nations report that condemns the United Kingdom Government for its treatment of people who have disabilities?
I will look at addressing such crime wherever it goes on and I will make a point of looking at Christina McKelvie’s motion. However, it is unfortunate if we seek to make political points when talking about a subject that, so far, we have been united in condemning.
Clearly, abuse of disabled people is a form of hate crime that is totally abhorrent and is perpetrated by cowards. There is surely, therefore, a compelling case to be made for such verbal abuse to be made prosecutable, as a priority. Furthermore, it is also worth pointing out that there is no statutory aggravator for an offence that is aggravated by prejudice relating to either age or gender. That needs to be explored further.
The third aspect that I want to cover is religious hate crime, which is traditionally a persistent form of hate crime in Lanarkshire and west and central Scotland. There are encouraging and successful initiatives going on in those areas that are aimed at tackling sectarianism, including remarkable projects such as one that is being run by the Machan Trust in Larkhall. The project, which has been running for many years, sees children and young adults of all religions coming together to participate in harmony on collaborative activities.
Despite all that, it is deeply depressing that reported instances of religiously motivated hate crime continue in 21st century Scotland. One particularly vile example took place a month or so ago and involved the targeting of the Coatbridge cenotaph: vandals sprayed pro-IRA graffiti on the memorial. Such a deeply offensive display of wanton vandalism united the whole community of Coatbridge, together with people in neighbouring communities, in condemnation of the act. Although there is certainly a balance to be struck when deciding whether to give air time to the vandals responsible, it is important that such acts be publicly condemned.
As 11 November approaches, such crime is set in stark contrast with the reverence and respect that millions of people throughout the UK show when they attend remembrance Sunday services every year. I look forward to paying my respects this Sunday, at that same Coatbridge cenotaph, which is one of countless memorials located in villages and towns nationwide that serve as a constant reminder of the debt of gratitude that we owe those who have in present and past conflicts paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.
In conclusion, I say that there has to be a two-pronged approach to preventing and eradicating hate crime. The first prong involves awareness raising, condemnation and education. The second prong is to ensure, when all else fails, that incidents of such entrenched unacceptable behaviour, in whatever form it exists, are disposed of with the full force of the law. As the Law Society of Scotland has pointed out, what is required is a review of the crowded landscape of legislation, statutory aggravators and common law as they apply to hate crime at present.
The rise of hate up to and since the Brexit referendum has caused us all to rethink our place in this United Kingdom, and it has reminded us that we cannot be complacent in anything that we do. Now that we know that the next President of the United States is a right-wing reactionary who mocks people who have disabilities, believes that he can do what he likes with women and creates an atmosphere of fear of immigrants and immigration, I am reminded of famous words that were written in 1883:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
It is 27 years since the fall of the Berlin wall. We should be breaking walls down, not building new ones up. Using words that were nowhere near as elegant as those of that poem, but which had the same message at their heart, I spoke at the SNP conference this year, which took place after one of the most right-wing, reactionary, negative and hate-filled Tory conferences that I have ever witnessed. I said that those who have come to our shores to seek a better life belong here, just as much as anyone else does. I also said that, if someone has chosen Scotland as their home, they are Scotland; if they have chosen Scotland as their place to study, they are Scotland; if they have chosen Scotland as their place of sanctuary, they are Scotland; if they have chosen Scotland as the place to bring up their children, they are Scotland; and that, if they have chosen Scotland as their place to do business, they are Scotland.
We all share in the riches of one planet. What right has any one of us to exclude someone else from doing the same? We are a country that stands opposed to hatred and that stands firm against abuse. However, in that opposition, we must be consciously aware of our own surroundings and our own context. Everyone in this chamber is, quite rightly, held to a higher standard and is subject to a more intense level of public scrutiny than others. However, that does not excuse the violent and hateful abuse that is often aimed at public officials, especially through Twitter and other social media. I have experienced it personally; no doubt, many other members have experienced it, too, and will have been subjected to various forms of abusive allegations, sexual harassment and hate crimes.
The Minister for Transport and the Islands gave the ultimate reply to someone who told him, “Go back to where you came from.” He said, “Aye, right. I’ll be on my way back to Glasgow, then.” It was the most uniquely Scottish reply—sharp, braw and based in absolute truth.
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service produced a report that brought together figures on race crime and crime that is motivated by prejudice related to religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity. In 2015-16, 3,712 racial charges were reported, which was a few per cent down on the year before and the lowest number reported since 2003-04. That is progress, but it still represents an awful lot of people being abused. Also in 2015-16, there were 1,020 reported charges of sexually oriented crime, which is an increase of 20 per cent, and is in line with an overall annual increase that is, I hope, the result of a rise in reporting since 2010.
Those reprehensible crimes and attitudes that pit Scots against each other based on nothing more than their differences represent tribalism at its worst. Tribalism can become ingrained very quickly. It is passed down as an accidental by-product of one’s environment. It is an attack on anyone who does not quite fit into someone’s preconceptions of what a person should be. If a person is deaf, is blind, is in a wheelchair, has special needs, is elderly, is gay or is transgender, some small-minded people—including the President elect—will object to their differentness.
In a healthy society, we celebrate difference and we know that people from every kind of background add to the rich tapestry that is humankind—I stress the “kind” part of that word because I want a caring, compassionate Scotland that does not want to victimise anyone. Victimisation is born out of fear. It is the school-bully syndrome: a person lacks confidence and security in themselves, so they hit out at others in order to compensate. Those that use that fear to incite hatred are the most reprehensible.
Ridding ourselves of such prejudice and hate crime centres on a shift in culture. We need to do more at school, with families and in communities, to build people’s confidence, especially in young people, so that they are able to shake off generations of being told that they are a useless waste of time, will never amount to anything and might as well accept that a life on benefits is all that they are good for and that they would maybe get on one of those poverty porn television shows. That is where attitudes start to go wrong. If a person is brought up in such an environment, where only their own kind—whatever they perceive that to be—is acceptable, what inevitably follows will be strife, pain, anguish and, of course, criminal behaviour, leading to a culture of hate.
It is beholden on every single one of us to rout out those old patterns and to replace them with a relaxed, open, friendly and non-discriminatory set of values. As recent events have shown, there is no place for complacency. Clearly, more effort needs to be made. A range of actions can be undertaken to try to eradicate such prejudice but, once again, it must all start at home and in nursery school. We need to teach our kids that the world is full of different people just as it is full of different cultures, religions and races.
I support the TIE campaign in its work to ensure that homophobia in all its forms is challenged, and I urge the Scottish Government to support it, too.
Diversity and difference make Scotland flourish. I call on us all, and our Scottish Government, to do what we can to eradicate hate-based discrimination. Here is to difference and to welcoming everyone.
We live in fragile times. I cannot be the only person who feels that, following the past 24 hours, they have become more fragile still. I am happy to speak in the debate and to take the opportunity to emphasise the importance of recognising the existence of hate crime and prejudice, and to affirm the need for us all in Scotland and beyond to tackle them.
I was privileged to attend the launch of hate crime week in Glasgow. I highlight that among the wonderful and inspiring speeches were the Purple Poncho Players—a theatre group from the Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living—who got in everyone’s faces with brilliant sketches condemning discrimination and mocking people who mock the disabled.
The consequences of Brexit are not yet fully understood. We know that many people who voted to leave do not hate and are not bigots, but there is a fear that perhaps, as some people have suggested, troublingly, Brexit did not create division but revealed it, and that those who feel hate feel emboldened to shout their hatred more loudly than they did in the past.
We must fear the division that seems ever more evident in our world. It matters—the future feels so much more insecure than it ever has before in my adulthood. I always believed that my children, who are now at the beginning of their adulthood, were living in a world that was much safer than mine. I fear for their generation that they are living not in a safe world, but in a frightening one.
I do not want to overstate the case or suggest that we are on the edge of a precipice, but I want to share my thoughts on the importance of vigilance and of being energetic in understanding and tackling hate crime and discrimination. I hope that members will forgive me for sharing with them an experience that had an unbelievably powerful impact on me. I recently had the privilege of visiting Bosnia as the guest of the charity Remembering Srebrenica to learn more about the genocide that took place there only 21 years ago.
Bosnia is a beautiful country and its people are welcoming. Sarajevo is a city with a proud history and a population of diverse faiths living together side by side. Bosnia, which was part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was, within our recent past, a holiday destination for people from across Europe and beyond. In our recent visit, we learned of the horrors of war—of a city under siege for 47 months and of abuse and slaughter of innocent victims. We heard of the United Nation’s soldiers’ inability to intervene and to act when they saw the systematic killing—ethnic cleansing—that was driven by the desire to eradicate a people because of their background and their beliefs.
Learning about the genocide by the Serbs, seeing the mass graves and hearing about the overwhelming grief of families and the courage of those who are still taking on the forensic work of identifying the remains of loved ones and those who are still seeking to heal the wounds of war, are important in themselves, for it is a stain on all of us that the genocide unfolded as the international community stood by, almost shrugging its shoulders. It saw the war as something inexplicable—a civil war among people who somehow historically were always that way inclined. That was to our shame, so we need to do all that we can to support the work of Remembering Srebrenica Scotland to talk about genocide denial and ensure that our young people understand what happened on our continent. To be opportunistic, I say that I hope that the minister will be willing to meet me to talk about precisely how we could support that work.
If members are ever given the opportunity to go on such a visit, I urge them to do so. I raise that experience not to overstate the challenges that we face, but to reflect on the central lessons for all of us from what we heard from the mothers of Srebrenica and from the courageous young men who gave testimony on their survival of the genocide. They spoke of how their crisis did not emerge in one day, and they spoke of the horror of their experience of realising that their school friends, their neighbours and those with whom they had lived in comfortable co-existence now wielded guns against them. Their understanding of that horror emerged step by step, slowly over time, with the denigration, scapegoating and dismissing of people. It is those steps that lead to the chaos that drives people to the inhumanity of genocide.
That is why we need to confront hate crime. We must ensure that people are supported to report it, and that those who would seek to divide our communities are left in no doubt that such behaviour is unacceptable. We need to educate our young people about the danger of the use of the word “hate” against any group, whether on the basis of its members’ identity, their faith, their sexuality, their gender or their disability.
We must also guard against complacency. I know that there is unity across Parliament in our yearning to tackle the issue. We want communities in which we celebrate our diversity, rather than defining ourselves by our differences. I know that in my city and in communities across Scotland, the United Kingdom and far beyond, there are inspiring examples of kindness, compassion, empathy and determination to tackle the discrimination that too many of those who seek refuge with us face because of the groups that they are part of and because, not least, of their courage in speaking out and demanding justice.
I say this gently and trust that we can all reflect on it: we must not rewrite our own history to feed a narrative about Scotland’s perceived difference from its neighbours in the debate about Europe. Scotland has been welcoming, but even a cursory look at our history allows us to understand that that has not always been so. Although many Scots are horrified by the denigration of immigrants across Europe, we know that immigrants and EU citizens in Scotland are not always immune from such abuse. We also know that there are many people across the rest of the UK who are as repulsed by the language and vocabulary of the bigots and racists as we in this country are.
We should not underestimate the importance of the advisory group’s report or of the debate. I wish all power to the Government in the actions that it takes—I and my party will support it in progressing that work. The police, the justice system, our public services and education must look forward to being part of a system that is fairer to all. In this very fragile world, we need to stand strong in our love of and commitment to humanity; otherwise, this world will become more fragile still.
“Hate” is a much-used word; I would say that it is a misused word. We have talked about hate crime in the Parliament a lot—indeed, we talked about it very recently. Maybe the question is whether things are getting better. In some ways, perhaps they are, but at some point we must understand the statistics. As with rape, sexual abuse and child abuse, the willingness of people to come forward will be reflected in increased numbers.
When we last debated this issue, I talked about the role of newspapers. We might not purchase them, but they are visible on the news stands for everyone to see. As I said then, they might have passed some legal test, but as far as I am concerned, they have spectacularly failed any moral test with the picture of intolerance that they paint and the way in which they normalise hate.
There has been a rise in the number of abusive crimes against homeless people, and those crimes manifest themselves in different ways, such as the spikes that are put down to stop rough sleeping. We have seen the vilification of various groups, and I have set these out in heavy inverted commas in my speech: asylum seekers; refugees; people being called junkies or scroungers; the disabled; Gypsy Travellers who, as the cabinet secretary pointed out, still encounter systematic abuse; and transgender people. Islamophobia, too, remains a major issue.
I will—I hope—speak with some good grace about the Conservative Party amendment, although I think that the same good grace was singularly absent from its proposer. The Scottish Greens will support that amendment and indeed the Labour Party amendment at decision time but, like the cabinet secretary, I would like to be able to share with my neighbours who are EU citizens not the words of that Conservative amendment but the guarantee that they are respected. I want to say to the Spanish neighbour who has been here for 15 years and has been a valued member of the community, “You are valued, and you can stay here.” Sadly, such guarantees are lacking at the moment.
We have seen the rise of the right across Europe, and members such as Christina McKelvie have talked about the role of social media in that respect. We have to be aware of relatively innocent-looking comments on such media from groups such as Britain First; they are luring people in, but we need only scratch the surface to see the hate that is there. I join Christina McKelvie in roundly condemning the disgusting abuse that female colleagues, in particular, get, and I think that any sane person would do likewise.
The report mentioned in the motion talks about the definition of hate and says:
“Using the language of ‘hate’ ... sometimes leads to a lack of recognition of what has transpired, as ... neither victim nor” the accused recognises what has happened as being “based on ... hate”. It also recommends the development of clearer definitions and terminology, and education
“to improve understanding of the nature and extent of hate crime.”
In that respect, I welcome the cabinet secretary’s comment about teacher training, which is absolutely vital, and the references made by other members to LGBTI and disability training. In his introduction to the report, Dr Morrow talks about “public education”. Again, I welcome next year’s campaign and am happy to lend it my support.
The issue of criminal aggravations has been mentioned by a few people, and there is an on-going debate on whether gender should be included on that list. The report says:
“the Scottish Government should consider whether the existing criminal law provides sufficient protections for those who may be at risk of hate crime, for example based on gender, age or membership of other groups such as refugees and asylum seekers.”
In a member’s bill that went through Parliament in 2008 and 2009, Patrick Harvie argued that, before long, consolidation legislation would be needed to make the various strands of hate crime coherent and—more important—to overcome the administrative problems caused by the piecemeal approach. The same position was adopted by the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland and indeed the Justice Committee in 2009. I am grateful to the various organisations that have provided briefings for us, one of which, from the Law Society of Scotland, picks up on that point and says:
“There could be potential benefits in consolidation of all hate crime statutory aggravations and substantive statutory offences within one piece of legislation” which would lead to
“ease of use and simplicity of reference.”
I hope that that issue will be picked up.
Moreover, the Lord Advocate’s guidelines, which are mentioned in that paper, talk about the perception that is associated with such crimes. That is very important for individuals, and it comes from knowledge. Finally, the Law Society highlights the learning possibilities that come from post-legislative scrutiny.
Of course, laws are one thing; what is very important is the lived experience of our citizens. The report on hate crime says:
“These experiences can be one off and open or hidden and frequent.”
There is a range of experiences, and, in that respect, I found the example given by Enable Scotland with regard to bullying very compelling. Enable quotes an individual as saying:
“That day on the bus, nobody came to my aid. The whole bus was full but nobody helped me. After that day I closed myself off and didn’t leave home for a month.”
It might be difficult for individuals to challenge such behaviour, particularly in a physical way, but we must challenge it.
In the previous session, the Equal Opportunities Committee looked at the issue of loneliness and isolation, and although it was a small part of what emerged, bullying was nevertheless a feature. Similarly, with regard to its own research, the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:
The Equality Network has provided a number of statistics, as have many of the people who have given us briefings. It said that 64 per cent of LGBT respondents and 80 per cent of trans people have been the target of hate crime. The most depressing thing in the statistics was the statement that, although those are high percentages, they are not out of line with other recent surveys. That is deeply depressing.
Public transport is one of the areas in which there are challenges. It is important that providers of public transport are aware. I make a plea: driver-only trains will not help that. It is clear that there is a very important role for the guards—for the health and safety people—on trains.
Social media have been touched on. It is clear that there needs to be education associated with that.
Bullying also takes place in the workplace. I simply remind employers of their duty of care to their staff. Experience shows that there is an important role for unions and staff associations in the workplace in support of avoiding such incidents cropping up. It is clear that peer support is important.
Hate crime is not simply associated with urban areas, of course. It is reprehensible regardless of where it takes place, but there are additional features if it takes place in a rural area. In particular, if an ethnic minority individual is the recipient of hate crime in a rural area, they are often isolated from the wider community and family support.
I conclude with the words:
“No two individuals are ever the same—embrace individuality and help put an end to Hate crime”.
That was not said by a philosopher; it is on Police Scotland’s website. The role that Police Scotland and third party reporting organisations have played is commendable.
It is important that we all stick together on the matter and encourage people to come forward.
There is absolutely no place for hate crime or prejudice in our 21st century Scotland. We can no more and we will not indulge the bigots as they practise their intolerance and bigotry only to accuse others of being more intolerant and bigoted than they are. We must show that there is a better way. At a time when other parts of the world are becoming insular and some nations’ views are hardening, we need to show leadership and that there is still a bright light out there. We must show that progressive politics can be a way forward. Everyone in Scotland must be empowered to achieve their potential, irrespective of their race, faith, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. Everyone has the right to be safe and to feel safe in their communities.
The Scotland that we all know has a very long history of welcoming people of all nationalities and faiths. As the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, Angela Constance, said:
“As a nation, we have a long history of welcoming people of all nationalities and faiths, and we are committed to supporting their integration into our communities. That has assumed even more importance in the aftermath of the EU referendum”.
We need only to look at the 1,000 refugees who have settled here since October 2015 to see our openness and willingness to help people to integrate and become part of Scottish life. We have seen the success of that locally in my Paisley constituency, as families have been welcomed in our community. However, countless EU citizens have come to my constituency office after the Brexit result and asked me what their future holds. They have committed themselves and their families to our nation and contributed to it. We need to ensure that, as a nation, we continue to be welcoming and open, and that we do not descend into the hate-and-blame culture that there has been in other parts of the United Kingdom. However, we cannot remain complacent; we must always look to be better.
In 2015, the Scottish Government commissioned a report to consider the issues of hate crime, prejudice and community cohesion. Recommendations for improvement were made.
That brings us to today. There are many forms of prejudice. It can be abusive and lead to hate, but it can also be a physical barrier. A disabled person can have difficulty in gaining access to most aspects of life that others take for granted, whether that is access to employment, a building or transportation. Those things are all connected, of course. Without one, another cannot be achieved.
Many members will know that my wife Stacey has multiple sclerosis and mobility problems. When we go out, we tend to go to places where we know that there will be access. If we use her manual chair, things tend to be easier—not for me, but we all need a fitness programme. With the manual chair, we can access a train without help and, nine times out of 10, I can find a way to push our way just about anywhere.
Of course, that is not the point. The point is how Stacey and others manage it on their own. How can we ensure that all our people have access to all the same buildings and services and to employment?
Stacey often says to me that people with disabilities tend to be forgotten. They have a very active network of organisations working to improve things, and they tend to be very reasonable. Unlike other groups, they try to find solutions to problems in a very practical and reasoned manner. The problem with that is that they tend to be taken for granted by transport companies, entertainment venues and public organisations.
How many times have we seen a wheelchair user denied access to a bus or having to organise a train journey four hours before they actually have the journey? There is no spontaneity for the average wheelchair user—no quick wee train journey down to Largs on a lovely summer’s day, and no chance of being late for work and making a last-minute dash.
There are solutions. One would be for access panels throughout Scotland to be made statutory consultees in the planning process, so that they are in at planning level to ensure that buildings can be fully accessible. We could also ensure that transportation organisations consult them about service plans and rolling stock, whether rail or road. The reason why I welcome this debate is that it has given me an opportunity to discuss these issues and ensure that the voices of my disabled constituents are heard.
All that is against the backdrop of Tory so-called welfare reforms. The report of the UN Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities’ inquiry into disability rights and welfare reform said that
“The roll out of those policies included the issuing of statements by high-ranking officers that the reform was aimed at making the welfare system fairer to taxpayers and more balanced and transparent and reducing benefit fraud. Persons with disabilities have been regularly portrayed negatively as being dependent or making a living out of benefits, committing fraud as benefit claimants, being lazy and putting a burden on taxpayers, who are paying ‘money for nothing’ ... the inquiry collected evidence that persons with disabilities continue to experience increasing hostility, aggressive behaviour and sometimes attacks to their personal integrity. The inquiry also found no substantiation of the alleged benefit fraud by persons with disabilities.”
A more cynical man than me would call the reforms a form of discrimination and prejudice. Some might even go so far as to call them a hate crime.
The type of Scotland that I want to live in is one that does not care where someone lives or comes from, what lifestyle choices they have made or even what football team they support. The Scotland I want is one that tolerates everyone and offers opportunity for all. It will not happen overnight, but we must face the challenge to ensure that we pass on that bright light to the next generation of young Scots. During these dark times, we must continue to believe that there is always a better way forward.
This is not the speech that I planned to give this evening, nor is it the one that I wanted to give. I reflect that, despite the rancour and deep divisions that often characterise debates in this place, there is a real connection tonight between the substance of the motion and the amendments, and the sheer revulsion at the result that we have witnessed in America today.
Yesterday, I described Brexit as a multifaceted act of political vandalism. It is certainly that, yet it is as nothing compared with the jarring, visceral and largely unexpected lurch to the politics of prejudice that our American cousins have embraced. Members across the chamber will have shared my view and watched aghast as state after state turned its back on an offer of hope and inclusivity to embrace a prospectus of cold misogyny, racism and discrimination.
It is not statesmanlike or diplomatic for a parliamentarian to rail against the victor of such an important international contest, but I feel neither statesmanlike nor diplomatic when it comes to addressing the hate-filled doctrine that has swept much of the continental United States these past 24 hours. It is a doctrine that represents the very antithesis of the Government motion and the amendments that are before us this evening, and it is a doctrine that relies on the demonisation of the other—the threatening outsider. It is a doctrine that plays to the very worst demons of our souls. Seizing on the realities of huge swathes of the American population who, when asked by pollsters, would say, “Folks like me were better off 50 years ago,” Donald Trump’s task was blindingly simple. Find any number of groups among the dispossessed and the marginalised to blame for that. Play to every fear. Stereotype and prejudice, and do so with abandon.
The politics of prejudice represents the very worst tendencies in the conduct of human affairs. It thrives on a primeval reversion to tribe that seeks out weakness, difference and non-conformity and then endeavours to drive them out, to persecute and to malign. We may unite in condemnation of the emergence of that politics in America today, but we would do well to reflect on its existence in these islands as well. If the calamity of last night’s events induces us to answer one challenge in ourselves, it must be the eradication of prejudice wherever it may be found in our nation.
If we accept that prejudice stems from the stigma that is attached to a group for its differences, a reinforcement of stereotype and a subliminal attempt to further marginalise it, we do not have far to look for examples. That challenge exists, for example, in the bigoted and inaccurate remarks about gay promiscuity in discussions about licensing for prophylactic HIV medication—something so effective that it is akin to a vaccine and which, had it been discovered in the 1980s, would be in the water supply. That stems from a popular prejudice from bullying in school, and that is why all parties in this Parliament have rightly supported the TIE campaign for inclusive education.
That challenge exists in the hate crime, abusive language and barriers to employment that are still faced by those who are affected by disability in our society, and it exists in the racism that is faced by refugees, Gypsy Travellers and migrants—yes, even here in Scotland.
Prejudice also germinates wherever we create a different class of person by dint of culture or policy. It exists for our talented female workforce, who are still paid measurably less than their male counterparts, still managed out or passed over as a result of pregnancy and still excluded from boardrooms across Scotland. It exists for our young people, whose hourly rate for work at entry level shows that it is valued less than that of older workers with the same experience, and who are still seen as responsible for antisocial behaviour in our communities even though they are more likely to be the victims of it than the culprits. Finally, it exists for our prison population, who are disenfranchised from the democratic process while they are incarcerated and set at an immediate disadvantage in relation to housing and employability on liberation.
It is incumbent on us as legislators, opinion formers and leaders to root out the folds and tears in the fabric of our society where people are forgotten, marginalised and subjected to prejudice and ultimately hate, and to bring change through policy and by example. Bobby Kennedy said that each time someone
“stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
I hang on to that last sentence and see its prescience tonight. It gives such comfort in this dark awakening for our world.
Let us unify today in the best way that this Parliament does; across the benches, let us support the motion and amendments. Let us and this be the catalyst for our fight against prejudice at home and, by so eradicating it here, let us turn our eyes west to the challenge of its revival overseas.
Politicians have a voice and the things that we say and do can shape the way society thinks about the issues of the day. That is a benefit, but it is also a responsibility. Wherever possible, we should use our platform wisely to point the way to a better society.
During the EU referendum, some politicians were not wise or careful, fanning the flames on immigration in order to generate votes for the leave campaign. Nigel Farage’s “breaking point” poster was a low point in a campaign that I feel had no high point. A tactical decision was made to turn what should have been a vote on the EU into a vote on immigration.
A UN body has commented that British politicians helped to fuel a steep rise in racist hate crimes during and after the EU referendum campaign. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said:
“the Committee is deeply concerned that the referendum campaign was marked by divisive, anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric, and that many politicians and prominent political figures not only failed to condemn such rhetoric, but also created and entrenched prejudices, thereby emboldening individuals to carry out acts of intimidation and hate towards ... minority communities and people who are visibly different.”
Hate crime in England has gone up as a result. In the week before and after the vote on 23 June, a year-on-year increase of around 42 per cent was recorded. Jon Burnett, a researcher at the Institute of Race Relations, said:
“The upsurge in attacks against eastern Europeans should come as no surprise, given the way that they have been portrayed repeatedly as scroungers, cheats and, ultimately, threats. This depiction, which intensified in the build-up to the referendum, of course predated it. The hate crimes are a product of a politically constructed climate which has been years in the making.”
Members should contrast that with the actions of the Scottish Government, before and after the EU referendum, to make clear that EU citizens are welcome. On the day after the referendum, the First Minister said to EU nationals who live in Scotland:
“you remain welcome here, Scotland is your home and your contribution is valued.”
There seems to be no evidence that the increase in hate crime in England is being replicated in Scotland, but I sound a note of caution. As the independent advisory group on hate crime, prejudice and community cohesion said in its report, some victims simply do not want to report crimes to the police. I have anecdotal evidence of that. A family business in my constituency recently received a series of anonymous letters telling the family to go home. Family members have also experienced people saying that to them in person on the street. They have not reported any of that to the police and they told a neighbouring shop owner, “It will pass.”
The independent advisory group reported:
“many people who experience hatred and prejudice on a daily basis said that it would be impossible to report them all to the police. Many participants reported that people subject to repeated incidents of prejudice or hate crime internalised such behaviour as a ‘normal’ experience of everyday life and developed coping strategies to deal with these that do not include contact with Justice agencies or support services.”
Police Scotland is working on encouraging victims to report incidents directly, through a form on its website, or through a network of third-party reporting centres that it supports and maintains.
The independent advisory group said:
“The Scottish Government continues to articulate a clear commitment to building a positive country which celebrates diversity, and the authorities are committed to taking hate crime seriously and to responding to it. ”
It also said:
“The global and media context is a crucial driver shaping the perception of safety for particular communities (such as Muslim or Jewish communities). Experiences of and anxiety about hate crime were both heightened during or following particularly high profile international events”.
“the public narrative around migrants and asylum had significant consequences for people in local communities.”
That underlines the point that, although the Scottish Government and its partners are committed to advancing equality and eradicating prejudice, by strengthening the law, running education programmes and working towards a situation in which all police and fire service recruits receive equalities training, the wider context is not under the Scottish Government’s control.
Comments, speeches and leaflets from politicians create a climate that has real consequences for communities. I hope that the xenophobic rhetoric that is emanating from UK political discourse ends now, before more harm is done.
I became a member of this Parliament after having had quite wide and varied life and career experiences, the majority of which were happy and positive.
However, like many members, I have come across and experienced a wide range of prejudice.
I grew up in the west of Scotland, where sectarianism was fairly rife in our communities. Although I did not understand the murals on the gable ends, I knew that on one street people wore green and on the other they wore blue, and God forbid that they get that wrong.
When I went to high school, I discovered that being called gay was not a compliment. There were virtually no ethnic minority students in my school and I used to wince when, on the way home, I heard the abuse that the owners of the local convenience shop had to endure day in, day out.
Naturally, I thought that, as I moved into adulthood, life would be different, because adults know better—right? However, during my career I have sat in recruitment meetings and heard people say things like, “We have a pile of responses to the job advert. Let’s take out all the ones with foreign-sounding names—that will make life easier for us.” I also have friends who have been beaten black and blue as they have walked home from a night out and who have been abused in a supermarket for holding the hand of the one they love.
The point of those anecdotes is to demonstrate that prejudice and bigotry are often born out of plain ignorance as well as a deep, genuine hatred that is passed on from one generation to another. Hate crime often derives from prejudice, but prejudice often derives from stigma.
As the co-convener of the Parliament’s new cross-party group on LGBTI+, I hope that the chamber will forgive my indulgence if I focus on that subject. As my colleague Annie Wells pointed out, according to the Crown Office, sexual orientation-aggravated crime is not only rising but is the second most common type of hate crime in Scotland. Worryingly, the Equality Network’s 2015 equality report points out that 97 per cent of LGBTI people in Scotland have personally faced prejudice or discrimination. Let us take a moment to think about that. It means that nearly every LGBTI person in this country faces or has faced some form of harassment or discrimination, from homophobic comments to acts of physical violence or discrimination when accessing services, in school or at their place of work. As I said to the Standards and Public Appointments Committee last week, it is true that LGBT acceptance has soared in our society—Scotland is a very inclusive place—but that does not equate to true equality.
As a society, we are still quick to label people and put them in boxes. “A Review of the Evidence on Hate Crime and Prejudice”, which was published recently by the Scottish centre for crime and justice research, points out that the list of protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010 does not always line up with the definitions in Scots hate crime law. Therefore, as policy makers, our task is quite complicated and is more difficult than just making a list of people not to discriminate against.
When we categorise people, even to protect them, we are attributing labels that cannot, by their nature, be applied to everybody. Therefore, the language that we use when discussing hate crime is important. Let me explain what I mean by that. When we discuss, for example, how to protect minorities from hate crime, we are addressing the symptoms of prejudice, not removing its root causes. We must stop painting the picture that the LGBTI community—along with many other so-called minority groups—is a legal and cultural exception to the norm. We should instead work towards a system of law that works for everyone by default. We must do everything in our power to drag the legal, educational and public service systems into the 21st century, which means not just paying lip service to those communities.
What can be done? Plenty of legislation has been passed by Holyrood and Westminster for the prevention and eradication of hate crime. However, as the Law Society of Scotland has pointed out, it is “scattered across numerous statutes”. The Law Society further points out that, if the law were consolidated in one place, that might improve clarity and access to justice for all. We should consider that.
Hate crime rarely happens in isolation, yet we still know very little about it and the people who perpetrate it. Much more research is needed into how hate crime intersects with other social issues such as poverty, ethnicity and religion. There also need to be far greater efforts to open the channels of communication between the affected communities and public authorities. That is why I am encouraged that Police Scotland is training more than 60 officers to work with the LGBTI community to prevent hate crime.
However, this is no time to pat ourselves on the back and say, “Job done.” The Equality Network points out that
“We need to find out whether restorative justice is being used effectively for different kinds of hate crime”.
Tackling online hate crime and criminalising threatening communication, in particular, are two areas in which Scotland has more room for improvement.
Hate crime is everyone’s problem, whether it is anti-semitism, anti-Islamic sentiment, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia or sectarian bigotry.
I am in my closing seconds.
As members of the Parliament, we have a role to play with the language that we use and how we treat each other when we have political differences that give way to heated debate in the chamber and online. The more we work together in tackling prejudice, the more inclusive society will become and the greater the opportunities will be for everyone.
Given the events that have unfolded in the past 24 hours in the United States, let me join those across the chamber who have spoken about the relevance of us having this debate today.
President-elect Donald Trump is certainly not the outcome that I had hoped for. The news that Trump will become the next President of the United States fills me with sadness and disbelief—disbelief because Trump led a hate-filled and fear-based campaign that was filled with misogynistic and racist rhetoric and which has served only to divide people.
For all of us who care about equality and fairness, today is a dark day. It is upsetting to know that a man who, in the course of his campaign, espoused backwards views about women’s rights, said that he would ban Muslims from entering his country and mocked people with disabilities can become leader of the United States and, seemingly, have those sentiments condoned. It beggars belief. There will be many Muslims, LGBTI people, other minority groups and women in America today who are worried about the future direction of their country.
If the US election tells us anything, it is that prejudice towards minority groups remains a live issue in the western world and it should be a stark warning to all of us against any complacency. I welcome the recent report by the independent advisory group on hate crime, prejudice and community cohesion, which highlighted that very issue. The report tells us that much of the experience of hate crime remains hidden to the public because many victims decide not to report due to fear of further violence or retaliation. Many other victims describe what looks like a degree of acceptance of certain abuse due to a feeling that it is simply “part of life”.
Hate crime is not an inevitable part of life. Prejudice and social isolation of certain groups have a long-term damaging impact on society and tackling those issues must be a priority concern for us all. A zero tolerance approach will help to give victims the confidence that they need to come forward and report by giving them certainty that their reporting will make a difference and that support will be given to them. Scotland’s Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service already takes a zero tolerance approach and Scottish Labour wants that to be extended across our justice system and beyond.
The independent advisory group’s report makes a series of recommendations about the scope of hate crime, particularly in relation to the category of gender. Consideration of misogynistic hate crime was recently adopted by police in Nottinghamshire, and I have previously asked the Scottish Government whether it considers Police Scotland to have adequate powers to handle such instances of crime. I look forward to the Government’s response to those issues in light of the report, and I hope that the minister will today outline that response, alongside a deadline for action in response to the report’s recommendations.
Persecution of minority groups in Scotland is a real and growing problem. Race crime remains the most commonly reported hate crime in Scotland and it is growing across the UK. As we have heard, the number of reported disability crimes has increased, too; that number has more than tripled since 2010 and it is up 4 per cent on last year. Instances of hate crime based on a person’s sexual orientation have more than doubled since 2010, and have increased by 20 per cent in the past year alone. That situation is simply unacceptable.
One family in Central Scotland recently brought to my attention the situation of their teenage grandson, who is being bullied at a school near to where I live due to a physical disability. The family was happy for me to mention that today, but asked me to say nothing more due to a fear of his identity being revealed.
We have also heard, via the TIE—time for inclusive education—campaign, shocking details of those who have been victims of homophobic bullying in schools. My friend and colleague Councillor Ged Killen at South Lanarkshire Council has spoken about his experience of being bullied at school simply for being gay.
During the debate, I have had in my mind my young constituent, my friend Ged Killen and others who have shared their lived experience with me, because there are real people behind the hate crime statistics and real lives that are affected by instances of prejudice-based bullying.
Specifically on the issue of homophobia, LGBTI groups and in particular the TIE campaign have been keen to address the occurrence of bullying and harassment in schools. I am pleased that several colleagues referred to the TIE campaign, including Annie Wells and Alex Cole-Hamilton. I was particularly pleased to hear Christina McKelvie, who is a big supporter of the TIE campaign, adding her voice and asking the Scottish Government to do all that it can to support the campaign.
Far too many young people are reporting issues of bullying due to their sexual orientation. No young person should be made to feel isolated, ashamed or persecuted because of their sexual orientation.
The TIE campaign research is remarkable; anyone who reads it finds it sobering. It includes the information that more than half of teachers have never even heard of or read current Government guidance that is designed to tackle homophobia in schools, as well as survey data from pupils showing that 27 per cent of LGBTI students had attempted suicide at least once.
The Scottish Government should act on the powers that it has to influence how the teaching curriculum and training materials are exercised when it comes to education on the matter. Taking forward a strong ethos of equality, starting with our young people, is a good way to start moving towards the permanent eradication of such prejudice from our society.
Building those positive attitudes throughout society will complement the work that our justice system—particularly Police Scotland—and third sector support groups carry out every day in tackling hate crime where it occurs.
I echo the calls from the advisory group on enhanced resourcing for the third party reporting centres, and recommendations that Police Scotland reviews action steps to improve their effectiveness.
I hope that the Government will consider its role in working with partners in the justice system and in education to improve how hate crimes are recorded and I hope that the minister will be able to provide some clarity on those issues in closing.
I hate to come back to Donald Trump, but his election reminds us that views that we might have hoped were consigned to the past are not necessarily as unacceptable in today’s world as we like to think.
There can be no room for complacency. It is my hope that we can positively take forward the issues raised in today’s debate by working together across the chamber in order to enact real change in people’s lives during the lifetime of this session of Parliament.
People are not born full of hate; they are not born homophobic or racist; and they are not born with despicable, demeaning views about the disabled. They learn it somewhere—perhaps in our communities, through entrenched, historical views that, I hope, will disappear some day soon. That point sprang to mind when I listened to the cabinet secretary’s quotation at the end of her speech. I will come back to that later.
I was encouraged to think that perhaps those old-fashioned views are leaving us when I attended the Scottish Youth Parliament reception in the Scottish Parliament last night. Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament from Moray and from Shetland showed me the responses to recent surveys about young people’s opinions in local communities, including young people’s priorities. Emmie Main from Moray and Kelvin Anderson from Shetland both told me how high up tackling hate crime was on their agenda in Shetland and in Moray, as well as with young people across Scotland. That can give us some encouragement today, when we have heard about some pretty horrific things happening throughout our communities.
I am pleased to close for the Scottish Conservatives and I thank all members for their contributions. There is a clear consensus in the chamber that hate crime must be overcome once and for all. Prejudice and bigotry of any kind has no place in our society and I welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to tackle this pernicious problem.
I want to dwell for a short time on some of the speeches that we have heard. Mr Dornan spoke about his experiences in Glasgow. Margaret Mitchell looked at three specific aspects during her speech and she gave us a stark example of unacceptable behaviour involving vandalism and graffiti of the cenotaph in Coatbridge and how that offensive action spreads through the community. That is completely unacceptable.
I enjoyed Johann Lamont’s comments about the Purple Poncho Players, and her compelling and moving account of her recent visit to Bosnia where she learned about the horrors of war that people had experienced there.
John Finnie and Christina McKelvie mentioned the impact of social media and the unacceptable hate that can be directed at people and politicians in particular; John Finnie made the point that female politicians are often targeted. I totally agree with what they said. None of us would condone what is said to politicians online, but some people see us as fair game. Whether or not any of us agrees with that, we would all agree that our staff are definitely not fair game, but they are often included in some of the vile hatred that is expressed online simply because of who they are employed by and what they do in this Parliament. That is completely unacceptable. I know that we as individuals all support our staff, but we perhaps do not say it enough in the chamber.
I was shocked to hear George Adam mention Paisley in his useful contribution, although he tends to do that every now and then. He also mentioned his wife Stacey and spoke about their experience of getting around town. I was interested to hear Stacey’s view that
“people with disabilities tend to be forgotten.”
I hope that, given the speeches from Mr Adam and other members, Stacey and others do not feel that their Scottish Parliament forgets them, because they are an important and integral part of Scotland’s life.
Jamie Greene mentioned how great it is that the Scottish Parliament now has a recognised LGBTI cross-party group. He also said that acceptance of the LGBTI community has soared, but we must remember that that does not always translate into true equity and equality.
I join the cabinet secretary in extending my thanks to Dr Duncan Morrow’s advisory group, which has looked extensively at the current state of hate crime, prejudice and community cohesion in Scotland since it was convened last year. The group’s report highlights a number of concerning issues, not least that many people in minority communities have accepted that a certain amount of abuse is almost part of daily life.
We have heard many worrying statistics in the chamber today. As Monica Lennon pointed out, the rise in the number of charges involving disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity may—although it is disappointing—at least demonstrate that some victims are more willing to come forward. However, many others for many reasons do not come forward, and it is incumbent on us all as parliamentarians to issue a clear call to let them know that their experiences will be taken seriously as they progress through the criminal justice system.
We also need to ensure that such cases are handled sensitively. Annie Wells and Jamie Greene mentioned the introduction of LGBTI liaison officers by Police Scotland, which is a positive step in that direction. It is particularly welcome that those officers have been trained by the Equality Network, which helps them to become alert to nuances of such incidents.
Dr Morrow emphasises that, although the justice system can punish and deter hate crime, it alone cannot instigate the required cultural change that will
“ensure positive and informed attitudes and behaviour within society”.
I refer to my earlier remarks in that regard. That is an important point, and it reinforces the idea that a criminal remedy must be part of a multipronged approach to tackling hate crime. Central to that strategy is the need to increase awareness of what constitutes a hate crime, given that the perpetrator and the victim may not recognise that the experience or actions are based on or motivated by hate.
How long do I have, Presiding Officer?
Dr Morrow and his group recommend that the Scottish Government should take the lead in developing a clearer definition of hate crime, which should be accompanied by greater public education. Parties all round the chamber can support those recommendations, and we will work collaboratively with our SNP colleagues and other members in those areas.
Ash Denham acknowledged that, in the intervening period since the EU referendum, incidents of hate crime in Scotland have not increased, which we welcome. It would be remiss of politicians to try to establish a direct link between incidents elsewhere and the referendum outcome, and the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and COPFS have repeatedly sounded cautionary notes about forming conclusions based on monthly fluctuations in the figures. However, we need to send a strong, unequivocal message that both non-British EU nationals and non-EU nationals living in Scotland are welcome here and that they should be afforded the same dignity and respect that they have always had. We heard that from Conservative members yesterday during the health debate, and I reiterate it today.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
There have been many positive contributions today. I hope that the consensus in the chamber sends a positive message to the people of Scotland that their Scottish Parliament sheds some light on the darkness of unacceptable hate crimes.
I, too, welcome the contributions to the debate from members right across the chamber, almost all of which have been positive. There is broad consensus in the Parliament not only that hate crime, prejudice and, as Margaret Mitchell specifically referred to, sectarian behaviour are not acceptable in Scotland, but that each of us must do all that we can to prevent and eradicate such hateful behaviours. As Christina McKelvie said, we must be on our guard and be vigilant.
Everyone has the right to be safe and to feel safe in their community. There is no excuse for any form of hate crime, which is never acceptable and will never be tolerated in this country. Scotland is a diverse multicultural society, and that diversity is a strength, not a problem. As has been highlighted this afternoon, Scotland has a long history of welcoming people of all nationalities and faiths, including those seeking refuge and asylum from war and terror elsewhere in the world. That is who we have been, it is who we are and it is who we continue to want to be. We want an open, inclusive and respectful country—a civilised country in what is, as Johann Lamont said, an increasingly frightening and fragile world. To respond to Johann Lamont’s request, I am sure that the cabinet secretary would be happy to meet her to discuss her ideas for ways in which we can all move forward together.
Understandably, we had many references to the international aspect. Alex Cole-Hamilton referred to the perhaps challenging events that are happening furth of Scotland, and Ash Denham made an eloquent plea about the importance of the language that is used by politicians. We all have a responsibility to set the tone.
Before I pick up on some specific points that have been raised, I want to stress a few things about reporting, a common theme that has been mentioned by many members. Anyone who believes that they have been a victim of hate crime should report that to the authorities. Police Scotland supports a national third-party reporting infrastructure to facilitate the reporting of hate crime. I say to Pauline McNeill that Police Scotland has been reviewing the network to ensure that there is adequate geographical coverage across Scotland and that there are sites that cater for particular community needs. The staff at the sites have received additional training from local officers to ensure that they can assist victims or witnesses in submitting a report to the police. In addition, hate crime can be reported online through the Police Scotland website. However, I undertake to ensure that, after the debate, we ask Police Scotland what more it can do in that regard.
As a general comment, and picking up on some of the points that Monica Lennon made, we of course continue to reflect on Dr Morrow’s recommendations in the round, and that work is on-going.
I was concerned to note the comments in the Equality Network’s submission for the debate in which it pointed to its recent survey of LGBTI people’s experiences of hate crime. The survey found that some 70 per cent of LGBTI people who had been the victim of a hate crime did not report the incident that they experienced to the police. Therefore, more work is obviously needed on that. I will ensure that the concerns that have been raised by the Equality Network as a result of its recent survey, which also covered experience of the broader justice system, are brought to the attention of the police and the relevant services so that we can reflect on what more we need to do to deal with that clear gap in how people feel about the system that is there for them.
Awareness raising plays a critical role, which is why I hope that all members will welcome the cabinet secretary’s announcement today of a new awareness-raising campaign on the effects of hate crime on individuals and communities, which is to be launched next year. I hope that the whole chamber will be able to get behind that important campaign.
In the time that I have available, I will focus on a few of the specific points that members raised in addition to the reporting of hate crime. I will perhaps not get round all the points, but I am happy to respond to members if they wish to write to me.
We will continue to work closely with all the relative organisations to ensure that we better understand and seek to address the key priorities for LGBTI communities. It is fair to say that the Scottish Government has made significant progress over recent years, but we are by no means complacent and we recognise that there is always more to be done. I welcome Jamie Greene’s role as co-convener of the cross-party group on LGBTI+, on which I am sure he will do an excellent job of work.
I was just about to get to that very place. The Deputy First Minister, as education secretary, is carefully considering what more the Scottish Government can do in terms of the campaign. We will continue our work on that. The cabinet secretary advises me that the respect me national anti-bullying campaign is being refreshed to ensure that it includes prejudice-based bullying, whatever form it takes. That work is on-going, and I am sure that Monica Lennon will welcome it.
Mention was made of the important issue of disability hate crime and the underreporting that we still see, for which there are a number of reasons. We continue to work with disability organisations. Members including George Adam picked up on this in the debate, but an impact of the UK Government’s approach to welfare reform has been the negative stereotyping in press reports of disabled people as benefits cheats and scroungers. That has had the consequence of an increase in incidents of disability harassment as reported by disabled people to our external partners. As the cabinet secretary said, we hope soon to bring forward a disability delivery plan to advance equality for disabled people. It will include a commitment to continue to tackle hate crime by working with disabled people’s organisations such as Enable, including on the key issue of bullying, which Enable highlighted in its helpful briefing for the debate.
George Adam and Christina McKelvie mentioned the recent UN report—Christina McKelvie has lodged a motion on that very subject. The report’s conclusion is that the UK Government has breached disabled people’s rights. We await with interest what the UK Government will do about that.
Brexit and the position of EU nationals in Scotland were also mentioned. I agree entirely with James Dornan’s comments about the significant anxiety felt by EU nationals in our country. I also entirely agree with John Finnie’s statement that the UK Government should take a lead. It has responsibility to set the tone, and by condoning what is, in effect, a bargaining-chip approach—Conservative MSPs have not challenged that in the debate—they are sending a very dangerous signal to society at large and a very worrying signal to EU nationals in our country, who have chosen Scotland as their home and whom we value very much indeed.
Scotland has been on a journey and we agree that we have much further to go if everyone in Scotland is to enjoy true equality and equality of opportunity. The reality is that we are all human beings and we have fundamental rights. It does not matter where we came from or who we love; we all deserve to be treated with basic human dignity and we should all be able to get on in life and enjoy everything that life has to offer. Vigilance is required at all times, and this Government is committed to doing everything that it can to ensure that Scotland continues on the journey so that equality becomes a reality for everyone.