Hate crime laws in Scotland could help “eradicate” abuse targeted towards marginalised communities, a charity representative has said.

The Scottish Government’s Hate Crime and Public Order Act aims to prevent hatred being stirred up against people because of their race, religion, sexual orientation and disability.

Rohini Sharma Joshi, diversity and inclusions manager at Age Scotland, said the legislation, which came into effect on April 1, could give these groups the confidence they need to report hate crimes against them.

Speaking after meeting Justice Secretary Angela Constance as part of the charity’s ethnic minority older people’s forum, she said those subjected to hate or abuse have had to alter their lifestyles to feel safe in their communities.

She said: “Older people in Scotland have had a journey of putting up with this behaviour. They have accepted that they have no other choice.

“We changed our lifestyles accordingly and looked after our own safety. Sometimes incidents were so drastic that people wouldn’t leave their house and it’s often because of someone’s religion, clothes or sexual orientation.”

Changes include altering their routes to work, taking different public transport or not going out in the dark, she said.


However, she added that the new hate crime law will not immediately improve the lives of minorities without the correct messaging.

“Taking the fear out of it may take a while – it’s ingrained,” she said.

“But it’s knowing that there’s something there to safeguard you. We also need to build confidence for communities to know they can report it and don’t have to accept this behaviour.

“We need to understand what we can do to ensure this hate is eradicated in Scotland.

“We have to inform people that we have this legislation in place which means if something happens they can report it and action could be taken, rather than living in fear of what the consequences will be if they report it.”