Number of racist hate crimes in Scotland falls but homophobic incidents on the rise

Campaigners have urged the Scottish Government to continue making it easier for victims of hate crime to come forward as new figures revealed the number of reported offences related to sexual orientation has risen by five per cent in the last year.

An anti-racism march organised by the STUC makes its way through Glasgow in 2018. Picture: John Devlin

Racism remains the most common type of hate crime north of the Border, figures released today by the Crown Office revealed, with 2,880 charges in 2018-19 - a decline of 10 per cent year-on-year.

This is 12 per cent below the previous year and the lowest number since consistent statistics became available in 2003-04.

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There were 1,176 sexual orientation hate crimes in 2018-19, up five per cent in a year, continuing a year-on-year rise since this became a criminal offence in 2010 - excepting 2014-15.

Crimes aggravated by religious prejudice fell to 529, their lowest since 2004-05, and an 18 per cent drop 2017-18.

Disability hate crime charges rose marginally by one per cent to 289 between 2017-18 and 2018-19 and are at their highest since the legislation was introduced in 2010 but are still believed to be under-reported.

Transgender hate crime fell from 52 to 40 in the same period.

A spokesman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission told The Scotsman there had been improvements in how victims can report hate crimes, but more work needed to be done.

"Many victims of hate crime still do not feel confident to report what has happened to them to the authorities," they said. "There is a risk that in many areas, incidents are still going unreported.

"Any incident of hate crime is unacceptable."

Justice secretary Humza Yousaf said: "While overall the volume of hate crime reported to the Crown Office has decreased in recent years, we also know that many incidents go unreported and we are determined to avoid a culture of acceptance.

"Following our consultation on hate crime legislation in Scotland, we are committed to shaping our legislation so that it is fit for 21st century Scotland and, most importantly, affords sufficient protection for those that need it."

He added: "We are resolved to do everything it takes to ensure that Scotland is a place where there is zero tolerance of any form of hate crime or prejudice."

Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC said: "Crime motivated by hatred is not only a wrong against the individual, but is an affront to our collective values as a community, creating division and fear.

"That is why the Crown treats hate crime so seriously and why it will continue to do so.

"It is encouraging that many victims of hate crime have the confidence to report this type of offending and we would encourage all to do so."