The Bill updates the list of characteristics protected under hate crime legislation and proposes the addition of age to this list – where there is a statutory aggravation for offences motivated by prejudice. The Bill also provides for 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. A statutory aggravation, in the hate crime context, is where the offender demonstrated, or was motivated by, malice and ill-will based on a listed characteristic (or characteristics). If the offender is found guilty, the court must take the aggravation into account when determining the sentence. Currently these offences only apply to stirring up racial hatred which has been an offence in Scots law – and the whole of the UK – for decades. The current stirring up of racial hatred offences are in the Public Order Act 1986.
The Bill also abolishes the offence of blasphemy which has not been prosecuted in Scotland for more than 175 years.