Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has urged people planning to protest against racial injustice to do so in a way that safeguards them and the wider public from the on-going threat from coronavirus (COVID-19).
Mr Yousaf said:
“In the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd, it is again clear that the scourge of racism continues to blight every nation on earth, and all of us must play our part in tackling it.
“I fully understand and feel the anger, and the sadness, that leads people to want to gather together and to show solidarity and community at this time. Unfortunately, the threat of COVID-19 is still with us and I must urge people not to attend mass gatherings, which pose a clear risk to public health, even with social distancing in place.
“The Scottish Government advice is still that no more than eight people should meet at any one time, and for those people to be from no more than two households. I would encourage people to explore alternative ways to make their voices heard on this vital issue, including for example through social media and by engaging friends, families and work colleagues.
“In Scotland, we value the considerable and important role of our diverse minority ethnic communities. We cannot, and will not, tolerate hate crime, prejudice or discrimination of any kind. It is not enough to simply not be a racist – we must be anti-racist, by supporting our minority ethnic communities, and condemning racism, hate and injustice wherever we find it.
“I hope we will soon be able to gather together to show our solidarity. But until then we must continue to do what is necessary to protect the health of everyone, following the guidelines. That is the best and quickest way to ensure we continue along the path of easing lockdown, and meet again sooner rather than later.”
Sandra White MSP said: “I, like so many others, am appalled at the killing of George Floyd, and I find the lockdown presents a difficult challenge with our natural instinct to call out injustice and show solidarity.”
“This difficult statement from Humza Yousaf outlines the current safety restrictions on place amid the on-going threat from coronavirus (COVID-19), and highlights our need to tackle racial injustice wherever it occurs.”
“In addition, I am pleased to see initiatives such as the virtual protest from the STUC, which you can find at: https://facebook.com/events/s/black-lives-matter-we-cant-bre/731620407586790/?ti=as”
If someone is a victim of a racist hate incident, or a witness to one, they can contact Police Scotland or one of the third party reporting centres that continue to provide a service by telephone or online.
The Scottish Government Equality Unit provided over £2.6 million for the period 2019-2020 to advance race equality in Scotland.
The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 23 April 2020. The Bill retains the existing core method of prosecuting hate crimes in Scotland. This is via attachment of a statutory aggravation when a person has committed an offence. The Bill retains the current thresholds for proving the aggravation of offences by prejudice. Hatred based on racial prejudice will therefore continue to be prosecuted using the existing application of a statutory aggravation (to offences such as murder, assault, breach of the peace).