Glasgow MSP calls out Scottish government over disability hate crime

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Disability hate crime in Scotland has risen drastically since 2010, particularly in the last two years, according to data from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal.

Now a Glasgow MSP has called out the governments and public transport companies amid the increase.

How much has disability hate crime risen in Scotland?

According to data from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal, disability hate crime in Scotland has rose drastically since 2010, and particularly in the last two years.

With a 44% increase from 2020-2022, hate crime has near enough doubled across the country.

To break it down further, in 2021-22, 666 charges were reported with an aggravation of prejudice relating to disability, 44% more than in 2020-21.

This is the highest number of charges reported since 2010, with the number of charges increasing year-on-year, besides a small fall in 2016-17.

The below statistics indicate the dramatic up-shot.

What are the factors contributing to the rise?

Pam Duncan-Glancy, who has been a Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Glasgow region since May 2021 and is the first permanent member of the Scottish Parliament in a wheelchair, has called out the Tory government in response to the shocking data.

Speaking exclusively on the issue, the 42-year-old said: “There’s a really horrible narrative around disabled people being burdens on the state.

“We see it with the social security system, particularly the Tories.

“There is a narrative that is broadening around social care that disabled people and people who really on social care, are a drain on the public purse.

“So, the burden that governments are putting on social care, which is attributed to disabled people, and the hostile environment that is being created, has created an environment where people are suspicious of disabled people, they want to question disabled individuals’ identities’ and they don’t necessarily believe that what you say you need is what you actually need because they have this horrible assumption that everyone is cheating the system.

“That’s why I think hate crime has gone up, because of the Tories’ hostile environment created with the welfare reforms that they brought in in 2010.

“It is not a surprise that the rise in hate crime figures has coincided with the less tolerant the Tory Government get.”

However, Pam stressed that the Scottish Government are not blameless either and is also responsible for ‘failing’ disabled people.

She said: “I also think the Scottish Government are not entirely blameless either.

“They have been underfunding social care now for a long, long time.

“They’ve been in government for 16 years now and disabled people in Scotland are left feeling like a burden on the state and unpaid careers are left to pick up the tab.

“So, with the Scottish Government, it is a different type of narrative, but it nonetheless still paints disabled people as a burden or a group of people who should not be able to access the support they require.

“Both governments have failed disabled people in a way that has resulted in a rise in hate crime as a result.”

Pam also added that public transport has to be pointed out as a reason for the rise too. 

She said: “Public transport is a key point of concern around hate crime. Some of the figures are also suggestive that on transport, hate crime can increase.

“One of the reasons I think there is for that, mostly speaking on bus travel, is because we continuously see bus’s being created that don’t meet the needs of the population they are serving.

“You get a bus that is not equipped to take two people who are in wheelchairs, or a wheelchair and a buggy at the same time and what that creates is a conflict between two groups of people.

“So, we get into a situation where we have an in-built structure of conflict in the transport system and this conflict has got worse because we have now become so dysfunctional as a country in some ways that everyone has to protect themselves and equality relies on people helping each other.

“It represents a poor understanding of what equality means and the consequence of a society that has become so dysfunctional and that’s because of decisions of the governments we have.”

A spokesperson from First Bus Scotland: “The interior design of all buses in use today must comply with the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000 (commonly referred to as PSVAR) which state that they must have one dedicated wheelchair space. 

“Since 2012 the buses we have bought include a separate buggy space, which reduces the risk of conflict where a passenger with a pushchair or buggy wishes to travel without folding this up, and a passenger in a wheelchair wishes to travel. 

“On hate crime, First Bus Scotland is a supporter of the Hate Crime Charter, an initiative led by Disability Equality Scotland on behalf of Transport Scotland. Our adoption of the Charter underlines our zero-tolerance approach to any form of hate crime on our services and ensures that everyone has the reassurance that they can travel with us in safety, comfort and have the peace of mind that the reporting of any such incidents will be dealt with seriously.”

What is the solution to the rapid growth?

The solution, Pam believes, is a change in government.

She said: “I think this can be fixed, but the change we need is a labour government. I believe this is the case at a UK parliament level and a Scottish.

“I genuinely believe that we fundamentally need to change the narrative and the government.”

Pam has been a fierce advocate for disability representations and rights since her time in parliament and before.

Having lodged the Disabled Children and Young Peoples Transition to Adulthood Bill, Pam continues to bring disability representation to the forefront of parliamentary procedures. 

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