A NEW law making "stirring up" homophobic and transgender hatred a criminal offence will be discussed by Holyrood politicians.

The Hate Crime Bill has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament - aiming to give greater protection for victims.

If approved, the legislation would help modernise and extend existing hate crime law  - updating the rules for the 21st Century. 

Holyrood will also discuss a standalone offence of misogynistic harassment through a parliamentary working group.

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The draft legislation updates the list of characteristics protected under hate crime laws and proposes adding age to the protected categories - where there is a statutory aggravation for offences motivated by prejudice.

If passed by MSPs, the Bill would set out new "stirring up" of hatred offences that would apply to all characteristics listed in the Bill - age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics. 

Currently these offences only apply to stirring up racial hatred.

Stirring up of hatred means that someone's behaviour is encouraging others to hate a particular group.

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Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: "This new Hate Crime Bill is an important milestone. By creating robust laws for the justice system, Parliament will send a strong message to victims, perpetrators, communities and to wider society that offences motivated by prejudice will be treated seriously and will not be tolerated.

"Stirring up of hatred can contribute to a social atmosphere in which discrimination is accepted as normal. 

"Our legislation, if passed, would offer greater protection for those who experience this kind of behaviour. 

"We all have a responsibility to challenge prejudice in order to ensure Scotland is the inclusive and respectful society we want it to be."

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In his review of hate crime legislation, Lord Bracadale recommended that gender should be added to hate crime law - but some women's rights organisation's were strongly opposed.

Campaigners instead proposed a standalone offence of misogynistic harassment be developed, which the Scottish Government has supported.

A working group will be set up to take this forward and consider how the criminal justice system deals with misogyny, including whether there are gaps in the law that could be filled with a specific offence on misogynistic harassment.

The group will also consider whether a statutory aggravation and stirring up of hatred offences in relation to the characteristic of sex should be included within hate crime law. 

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Statutory aggravation is defined as where an offender demonstrated, or was motivated by, malice and ill-will based on a listed characteristic . If the offender is found guilty, the court must take the aggravation into account when determining the sentence.

The Bill includes a power to allow the characteristic of sex to be added by regulations, at a future date, to the lists of characteristics to which the new hate crime legislation will apply.

Mr Yousaf added: "I am also clear that we must do more to tackle misogyny and the Scottish Government is committed in principle to developing a standalone offence which would criminalise serious misogynistic harassment. 

"We are establishing a working group to take this forward and further details of this will be announced in due course."