A coalition of equalities groups have written an open letter to Parliament's business managers urging them to take action after weeks of delays to the hate crime bill.
The letter, below, is signed by Stonewall Scotland, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Capability Scotland, Amnesty International, the Equality Network, SAMH, LGBT Youth Scotland and HIV Scotland. It urges the business managers to take action to ensure Parliament can consider the legislation at the earliest opportunity.
The bill, introduced by Patrick Harvie MSP, will ensure a judge knows when a crime is motivated by anti-gay hatred.
Calum Irving, Director, Stonewall Scotland, said: "It's time Parliament stopped playing politics with hate crime. Over three quarters of MSPs support this bill and yet Parliament seems unable to progress it. Meanwhile the Scottish Register of Tartans Bill is going through Parliament like a rabbit out of a trap.
"This shouldn't be about politics - it's about people's safety and security.
"Given there are two good committees more than qualified to look at this bill and there is relatively little legislation in Parliament, the delay seems ludicrous."
Notes to editors:
1. Stonewall Scotland, the lobbying group for LGBT equality, was formed in 2000.
2. The 'Beyond Barriers' survey published in 2003 found that 23% of LGBT Scots had been subject to physical abuse and 68% to physical abuse because they are LGBT. A Capability Scotland survey published in 2004 found that 73% of disabled people questioned have been frightened, attacked, or experienced verbal abuse. Just over a third of the incidents were physical. Approximately half had experienced hate crime because of their disability
3. The proposed bill will introduce a statutory aggravation to cover crimes motivated by malice or ill will on the grounds of sexual orientation, transgender identity and disability.
4. In 2004 a Scottish Executive Working Group recommended anti-gay hate crime legislation should be introduced- but the Executive decided not to follow the recommendation.
5. Similar legislation has been in place in England and Wales since 2005.
6. In Scotland there are already similar protections in place for crimes aggravated by racial or religious prejudice.
7. In 2006 in the Lothian and Borders police force area, there were more than twice as many reported incidents of homophobic hate crime as faith based incidents - 75 homophobic incidents compared to 36 faith based. But there is a statutory aggravation for faith based hate crimes, and none for those based on sexual orientation.
8. The measures proposed are supported by ACPOS, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and four Scottish parliamentary parties.
Bruce Crawford MSP, Michael McMahon MSP, David McLetchie MSP, Robert Brown MSP
The Scottish Parliament
6th June 2008
Offences (Aggravation By Prejudice) (Scotland) Bill
We as organisations that support the introduction of the above Bill are writing to urge you to take action to ensure Parliament can consider this important legislation at its earliest opportunity.
It has come to our attention that after two successive weeks of deliberation the Parliamentary Bureau has failed to allocate the Bill to a committee. We fully appreciate that the Bureau must allocate the Bill to the most appropriate committee but are alarmed that in a Parliament with relatively little legislation this Bill may not face scrutiny till autumn 2009. It has already been four years since an expert working group recommended this legislation.
We are dismayed at the potential for such a delay given that the Bill is probably the simplest and most straight forward Bill Parliament has faced. It will not have gone un-noticed by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and disabled victims of hate crime in Scotland that another member's bill, the Scottish Register of Tartans bill, is receiving parliamentary scrutiny at an astonishing speed in comparison to the hate crime Bill.
There are two potential committees able to consider this Bill - Justice and Equal Opportunities.We do not take a view as to which committee should consider the Bill but would point out that a previous justice matter, the Female Genital Mutilation Bill, was considered by the Equal Opportunities Committee. The hate crime Bill seeks to tackle crime driven by pernicious motives towards disproportionately targeted groups. It is a matter of equality, as well as justice.
This measure was promised and cancelled by the previous administration. It is now long overdue. Scotland stands alone in the UK in not having this protection in law. The police and many in the justice system want the right tools to tackle the ugly prejudices that lie behind so many hate crimes. It is surely right that Parliament affords disabled and LGBT victims of hate crime the respect of parliamentary consideration at the earliest opportunity.
Calum Irving, Stonewall Scotland
Ros Micklem, Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland
John Watson, Amnesty International
Richard Hamer, Capability Scotland
Tim Hopkins, Equality Network
Jane Horsburgh, The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association
Charlie McMillan, SAMH
Fergus McMillan, LGBT Youth Scotland
Roy Kilpatrick, HIV Scotland
For media enquiries in the first instance please contact Stonewall Scotland on 0131 474 8019 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have an out of office media enquiry please call 07870 650 662.