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Prevention and Eradication of Hate Crime and Prejudice

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 9th November 2016.

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Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

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.