New charter to tackle hate crime on Edinburgh public transport

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More than half of passengers have witnessed a hate crime on public transport in the Capital, a new survey has found.

A new campaign – the Charter for Public Transport – has now been launched to take a “zero-tolerance” approach to such incidents.

It is hoped the first charter of its kind in Scotland will soon be rolled out in other cities all over the country.

Transport minister Humza Yousaf was at Haymarket station yesterday to launch the campaign aimed at stamping out hate crime across the Capital.

He said: “The support given to Edinburgh’s Community Safety Partnership Transport Charter is encouraging and clearly shows the commitment towards responsible behaviour and passenger safety.

“There is absolutely no excuse for hate crime or prejudice towards people working or travelling on our transport network and I am extremely grateful for the work of City of Edinburgh Council and partners in developing and implementing the charter.”

Transport minister Humza Yousaf at the charter's launch with pupils from Currie Community High School. Picture: Neil Hanna.

Transport minister Humza Yousaf at the charter's launch with pupils from Currie Community High School. Picture: Neil Hanna.

Organisations which joined the council in signing the pledge include Edinburgh Trams, ScotRail, Police Scotland, British Transport Police and First Scotland East.

It comes after a survey of 168 people found more than half had witnessed an incident of hate crime on public transport in Edinburgh but that less than 10 per cent had assisted the victim.

The survey, carried out by campaign group Hollaback from April 27 to June 7, found most incidents were cases or verbal or low level abuse, with a third having taken place in the last month.

One city bus driver, who did not want to be named, welcomed the pledge and said it was important to educate people about how to report such incidents.

The 52-year-old recalled one occasion in which a teenage passenger was subjected to a torrent of verbal abuse, including monkey chants, because of the colour of her skin.

He said: “[The victim] was very timid and shy. She barely uttered a word – I think she was in shock, seriously frightened.

“I don’t think there’s enough information out there for people to report hate crime.”

The launch will be followed by two days of action where representatives will attend transport hubs across Edinburgh. They will work to promote an understanding of hate crime, awareness of the new charter and how people can report unacceptable behaviour.

Lesley MacInnes, the council’s new transport and environment convener, said she was pleased to see the different partners coming together to tackle the problem.

She added: “Edinburgh is a diverse and thriving city that does not tolerate any form of hate crime.

“The city is a safe place to live, work in and visit but sadly there is a small minority who behave in an unacceptable manner. This charter – a first in Scotland – is a fantastic step forward.”

Pupils from Currie Community High School were also in attendance as part of their school’s on-going work to promote inclusion.

S6 student Emily Farrell, 16, said she felt it was “really important” to get young people involved in the initiative.

She said: “We are very lucky to have been given the opportunity to help the and I think it’s a great idea.”

Fellow S6 student Clark Gray, 17, added: “We need to show our respect for one another, even if it’s on public transport because this is an area that everyone shares.”

Chief Superintendent John McBride, divisional commander for British Transport Police, urged anyone who experiences or witnesses a hate crime to report it as soon as possible.

He said: “In launching the charter for public transport with our partners, our position on hate crime is extremely clear. It will never be tolerated and we will always look to take firm action against perpetrators.

“The public can of course help us in driving out racism and hate crime on trains throughout Edinburgh and the rest of the country.

“If you experience or witness a hate crime, then I would encourage you to get in touch as soon as possible.

“This can be done by sending a text discreetly to 61016. We’ll then do all we can to identify offenders and bring them before the courts.”