New group to tackle hate crime

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The next steps in preventing and eradicating hate crime in Scotland were discussed at a Scottish Government summit on Wednesday, 14 October 2015.

Hosted by the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Paul Wheelhouse, the event was held in Edinburgh and included a range of attendees representing minority communities, key stakeholders and public authorities from across Scotland.

The summit reflected on progress made to date in tackling hate crime and, crucially, outlined the next steps that will be taken, including the creation of a new Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion, that will be led by Dr Duncan Morrow.

The Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Paul Wheelhouse said:

There is absolutely no place for bigotry and prejudice in Scotland and this Government is clear that any form of hate crime is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated in 21st century Scotland.

We have already invested more than £80 million since 2012 to advance equality and tackle discrimination and I am confident that progress is being made.

The overall number of hate crimes reported in Scotland have fallen compared to last year’s statistics, but we know that certain communities are less likely to report crimes of this nature. For our part, we remain absolutely committed to doing all we can as a Government to tackle inequality and create and support safer and stronger communities for all.

That is why I am pleased to announce that we are establishing an Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion and I am delighted that this group will be chaired by Dr Duncan Morrow, who I greatly respect.

Today’s event will allow us to consult with Dr Morrow, and other relevant stakeholders, on the full remit and membership of the group before its work gets underway. Of course the main purpose of the group is to provide evidenced findings and recommendations which the Scottish Government can take forward in partnership with communities to help eliminate hate crime for good.

Scotland is becoming a more inclusive country and this is very much to be welcomed. We want everyone in our communities to live safely and without fear and today’s summit takes us one step closer to making this vision a reality.

The summit also discussed the research report “What Works to Reduce Prejudice? A Review of the Evidence” which was published this morning.

The research was commissioned by the Scottish Government to review the evidence on activities and interventions that have been used to reduce prejudice previously.

Main findings include:

  • There are two main theories of prejudice reduction – ‘Contact’ where exposure to others reduces prejudice itself and ‘education’ where information about other groups provides a challenge to negative attitudes;
  • Sustained activities have more impact than short-term interventions; and
  • Overly dramatic and factually incorrect interpretations of prejudice for the purpose of ‘hard hitting’ messages could risk alienating sections of the audience

The Minister added:

This research published today is yet another tool in our armory in the fight against prejudice in Scotland. We will examine the findings closely and ensure any key lessons are incorporated into our approach going forward.

We want Scotland to be a modern, inclusive country where diversity is celebrated. If we are going to achieve this we have to eliminate all forms of hate crime once and for all.

Dr Duncan Morrow, Chair of the newly created Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion said:

Hate crime and prejudice, regardless of whether this is violent or expressed through verbal comments and passive behaviours, has a corrosive and damaging effect on individuals and communities. It undermines community cohesion, isolates and alienates individuals and generates fear and mistrust of those who appear to be different from ourselves.

My previous work with the independent Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland highlighted an enormous desire for change among communities and agencies across Scotland which will allow us to tackle insidious social issues like hate crime in respectful ways.

I am delighted to have been invited to chair this new Independent Advisory Group and look forward to working with the many committed individuals and organisations who recognise that being truly inclusive is central to all modern and forward looking countries.

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