Colin Macfarlane: Scotland must tackle prejudice

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This summer Scotland has been held up as a beacon of equality and fairness.

From the pride flag flying over the Scottish Government, to that “Glasgow kiss”, the Commonwealth Games provided Scotland with the opportunity to show the world that we are a country where everyone has the opportunity to shine, regardless of who they are or who they love. Unfortunately, the experience of Daniel Donaldson, pictured below, has illustrated that for many lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in Scotland, the lived experience can be quite different.

YouGov research, commissioned by Stonewall, showed that one in six lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Scotland have been a victim of a homophobic hate crime or incident in the last three years, and this can include anything from harassment or vandalism to physical assault. And despite all evidence suggesting that young people are more tolerant and accepting of LGBT people than older generations, half of hate crime victims said the perpetrator was a stranger under the age of 25.

Let’s not forget, less than 35 years ago, it was illegal to be gay in Scotland. Only ten years ago, you could be fired just because of who you loved. With the first same-sex marriage due to take place at the end of this year, we can and should celebrate just how far we have come. But what is worrying is that the young people committing these crimes were born into a country where criminalising gay people was a thing of the past. They were educated after Section 28 was repealed and previous restrictions on discussing LGBT issues in schools were lifted.

Changes to the law are not enough to protect people from being targeted just because they are seen to be different. At Stonewall we know that what we learn as children can last a lifetime. If we are going to tackle hate crime in Scotland, we need to work harder with our schools, with our teachers and with young people themselves to tackle prejudicial attitudes before they take hold.

Colin Macfarlane is director of Stonewall Scotland.