Stats show new Scottish online hate laws are ‘vital’, minister claims

More than 7,000 reports of hate crimes were made during the first week after laws were introduced in Scotland, as number of recorded crimes more than doubled year on year

There were more than 7,000 online reports of hate crimes in Scotland in the first week after new laws coming, according to provisional police statistics.

However, between 1 April and 7 April, these 7,152 online reports resulted in 240 hate crimes and 30 other incidents below this threshold being recorded. This equates to fewer than one in 25 of all the reports filed.

The 240 recorded crimes during is, though, higher than during the same period in any of the preceding five years, including a total of 99 in 2023. The 30 non-crime hate incidents is up from 18 for the same period last year.

Scotland’s justice secretary Angela Constance said: “These statistics show that of the significant number of online hate crime reports made to Police Scotland since 1 April, almost half came in on the day the new legislation commenced, with the number of daily complaints falling by 90% within the first week. These comparison statistics show how vital tackling hate crime is and how it is not a new issue for Scotland’s police and justice system.”

During April’s opening week, there were also 430 police incidents in which officers added a hate crime tag, and 34 telephone calls and 141 emails relating to hate crimes.

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Half of the recorded hate crimes involved race-related hate, while 42 related to sexual orientation, 38 to disability, and 21 each for age and religion. There were eight hate crimes recorded which related to transgender identity and none related to variations in sex characteristics.

The Hate Crime and Public Order Act came into effect at the start of this month, creating new offences relating to the stirring up of hatred against communities with the protected characteristics of age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics.

But there has been considerable confusion over what qualifies as a hate crime under the new law, with author JK Rowling challenging police to arrest her “if what I’ve written [on a Twitter thread] qualifies as an offence”.

Police Scotland confirmed Rowling’s posts, in which she labelled a number of high-profile trans women men, were not criminal.

The Police Scotland figures also revealed one in five officers are yet to complete training on the new law. There were 16 complaints made in relation to the act.

Scottish Tory justice spokesperson Sharon Dowey, whose party opposed the legislation, said: “On top of the deluge of complaints that Police Scotland are having to field every day, the fact that 240 in a week were deemed to have been crimes just adds to the intolerable strain on officers who have already been forced to not investigate certain other crimes due to SNP cuts. The Scottish Police Federation have warned that this is unsustainable, so Humza Yousaf should admit he’s got it badly wrong and bin this disastrous law.”

A version of this story originally appeared on PublicTechnology sister publication Holyrood

PublicTechnology and Holyrood staff

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