At a summit convened by the Scottish Government on 14 October 2015, Ministers announced their intention to establish an Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion. The main purpose of the group was to provide evidenced findings and recommendations which the Scottish Government can then take forward in partnership with communities to help eliminate hate crime for good.
The membership of the Advisory Group including Dr Duncan Morrow (chair and Director of Community Relations at the University of Ulster); John Wilkes (then Chief Executive of the Scottish Refugee Council); Pauline Kelly (Hate Crime Officer at Glasgow Community Safety Partnership); Rowena Arshad (Head of Moray House School of Education and Co-Director of the Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland) and Morag McLaughlin (former Area Fiscal at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, who served on the Advisory Group until May 2016). The Advisory Group's terms of reference were to:
- Take forward consideration of the nature, extent and impact of hate crime and broader hate behaviour on modern Scottish life. This should include considering existing evidence; identifying what further evidence is needed; and considering a realistic and achievable programme for gathering that evidence;
- Assess current practice to tackle hate crime, hate behaviour, reduce prejudice and build community cohesion, engaging with stakeholders and communities throughout on the issues of important to them whilst considering whether improvement can be delivered in these areas in a holistic and coordinated way; and use the evidence, information and views gathered provide initial findings to Scottish Ministers on future priorities and actions in this area in the spring of 2016.
- Provide independent and specialist expertise on the development of a robust policy agenda to tackling hate crime.
- Take a consensual, thematic approach to working with a broad range of stakeholders, interest groups and representative organisations, and aim to create a space for free and open discussions.
The Advisory Group met a number of times in 2014 and 2015. These included 5 general plenary meetings in Edinburgh and Glasgow which involved work planning, key stakeholder engagement and exploration of relevant issues. The Advisory Group also hosted a number of thematic roundtable discussions with stakeholder groups on the issues of race, faith, sexual orientation and gender identity, disability, and children and young people.
Stakeholders engaged with included Police Scotland; Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service; Education Scotland; BEMIS Scotland; the Coalition of Minority Ethnic Voluntary Organisations ( CEMVO); the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights ( CRER); the Equality Network; Stonewall Scotland; LGBT Youth Scotland; LGBT Health and Wellbeing; Inclusion Scotland; People First; the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability; British Deaf Association; Muslim Council for Scotland; Scottish Council of Jewish Communities; Interfaith Scotland; Youthlink Scotland; the Scottish Youth Parliament; and the Scottish Trade Unions Congress.
The Scottish Government commends the Advisory Group for its thoughtful and measured work in a short space of time, and is grateful to the members of the Group for giving up their time to participate.