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.