Homophobic hate crime has reached its highest level on record in both Aberdeen and Dundee, official figures show.
Annual statistics released by the Crown Office show that crimes motivated by sexual orientation hit a new record in both cities, since it was made an aggravating factor in 2010.
In Aberdeen, there were 99, up 68% from 59 in 2018-19, and in Dundee there were 69, up 41% from 49 last year.
Offences across Scotland rose in the last year, with a total of 5,219 reported in total, up from 4,686 in 2018-19.
Deejay Bullock, the founder of Aberdeen-based LGBT support charity Four Pillars, said he was “very alarmed” to hear sexually motivated hate crimes had risen significantly in the last year.
He added: “I don’t believe this can be attributed to increase reporting, which means there is a current increase in hate crimes on the LGBT + community.
“This is not acceptable and we will be working with Police Scotland immediately to establish a strategy to combat htis rise and any future crimes.”
A total of 45 homophobic hate crimes were reported by the Kirkcaldy Procurator Fiscal office in the last year, down 6% from 2018-19 when there were 48.
Stefan Hoggan-Radu, who hails from North-east Fife, and his husband, have personal experience of homophobic hate crime.
The 27-year-old, who is seeking nomination to become the SNP candidate for North East Fife in the Holyrood elections next year, said: “We were sitting in our car not long after the Queensferry Crossing opened and there was a lot of traffic so we were sitting in the traffic when a van pulled up beside us and I had my window down and he was filming us and he started shouting homophobic abuse at us out of his window.
“I haven’t been out as gay that long, only about five years, so my fiancee, now husband, and I were just chilling in the car after a good day in Edinburgh and were just driving back and just to have not only the abuse shouted at us, which I’ve never had directly to my face before but also film it, really upset me.
“It was very upsetting, mainly because it’s totally unnecessary in this day and age.
“You can say what you like, your opinion can be what you like, but if you are stirring up hate against a particular group or you are being violent, vicious or mean against any particular group or person, that is not freedom of speech. That’s hate and that’s completely different.”
The statistics show that race crimes were also up across Aberdeen and Dundee in the last year, despite falling in recent years.
They were up 15% in the Granite City, where 177 were recorded, up from 154 in 2018-19, – though such crimes have fallen from a peak of 376 in 2011-12.
For Dundee, hate crimes aggravated by race are at levels not seen in a decade: 155 reported last year, the highest since the same number of crimes were recorded in 2010-11.
North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said the figures gave “cause for concern about the kind of victimisation going on”.
He added: “But I think the other point is also that by making these crimes visible and making people confident to report it, does have the effect of increasing the numbers.
“Sometimes it’s a case of more reporting rather than more crimes taking place.
“But I expect in this case we can see both effects.”
Dundee City East MSP Shona Robison said the new Hate Crime Bill forms part of the Scottish Government’s “ambitious programme” of work to tackle hate crime.
She added: “Hate crime has hugely damaging effects on victims, their families and communities. We all must play our part to challenge it.
“The increase in reported charges may suggest victims have more confidence to speak out although I accept that many incidents do go unreported and I urge anyone who has experienced hate crime to report it.
“The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) bill is part of the Scottish Government’s ambitious programme of work to tackle hate crime and sends a clear message – Scotland is a place where there is zero tolerance of hate crime.”
Hate crimes up across Scotland
The Crown Office’s annual Hate Crime in Scotland report was released last month, bringing together figures for all types of prejudice-related crime.
It shows that hate crime is on the rise in Scotland as prosecutors reveal a spike in prejudice related to racism, religion, disability and sexual orientation.
The report showed that racism is still the most commonly reported hate crime with 3,038 charges brought in the last year alone – a rise of 4% compared to 2018-19.
However, the Crown Office said it is still the second lowest figure since consistent figures became available in 2003-04 and is 33% lower than the peak in such charges in 2011-12, when 4,547 charges were reported.
Crime related to sexual orientation was the second most common, with a 24% rise to 1,486.
With the exception of 2014-15, there have been year on year increases in charges
reported since the legislation introducing this aggravation came into force in 2010.
There were 41 charges reported in 2019-20 with an aggravation of transgender identity, up one from 2018-19.
Religiously aggravated crimes resulted in 660 charges, a 24% increase from the previous year, while the number of disability aggravated charges rose by 29% to 387.
Commenting on the figures last month, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said the figures may suggest victims are more confident about reporting crime, but he warned there should be no “culture of acceptance”.
He said: “We are determined to do everything it takes to ensure Scotland is a place where there is zero tolerance of hate crime.
“Our message is clear, we will not stand for prejudice or discrimination of any kind.”
Meanwhile, Kate Wallace, chief executive of Victim Support Scotland, said last month that she was “deeply disappointed” that hate crime is on the increase in Scotland.
She added that she was “hopeful” that the new Hate Crime Bill due to be debated by Holyrood would “make clear the harmful impact that stirring up hatred has on individuals and marginalised communites.”
Chief Superintendent David Duncan, Divisional Commander – Safer Communities Division, said Police Scotland takes all reports of hate incidents “seriously”.
He added: “We recognise the deep and lasting impact this kind of crime can have on individuals, their families and wider communities.
“We are aware hate crime is often under reported, however, Police Scotland is fully committed to reviewing and investigating all reports of hate.
“It is only through reporting offences that we can form a more complete picture of the issue and address it in the most robust manner possible.”
He added that Police Scotland run regular campaigns to increase public knowledge of hate crime, raise awareness of reporting methods and influence offender behaviour.