STRATEGIES to tackle hate crime on public transport were discussed at a consultation in Alloa last week.

Partners from law enforcement, representatives of disability rights groups, interested members of the public and staff from transport companies gathered at Alloa Town Hall last Wednesday, September 5, in a bid to tackle the issue.

Hosted by locally-based Disability Equality Scotland (DES), with partners from Police Scotland, British Transport Police, Transport Scotland and the South East of Scotland Transport Partnership (SESTran), the event ultimately sought views on how a hate crime charter could be established and how it could work for everyone involved.

There were presentations, including individuals detailing their own experiences of hate crime on transport, as well as group discussions to generate ideas and gather views with Central Scotland Regional Equality Council also on hand.

DES, a membership organisation, works closely with Transport Scotland as part of the 10-year Accessible Travel Framework.

Emma Scott, equality projects manager at DES, told the Advertiser that hate crime is an “underreported issue”.

She said: “We heard some statistics this morning from Police Scotland that at least 97 per cent of disability hate crime goes unreported.

“So, we are trying to raise awareness about what hate crime is and what people can do about it.

“Public transport is one of the places where people feel most vulnerable because quite often, as we heard from Ivan from People First Scotland [one of the speakers] earlier, people can identify you quite easily.”

Boarding the bus with a concessionary pass can flag people up as targets, explained Emma, who is hoping to spread a zero-tolerance approach.

She added: “I think a lot of this is about hate crime being acknowledged as a problem, people making sure that there is a way it can be reported and taken seriously, there’s issues around confidentiality as well.

“And making sure that people who decide to make a report are supported to do that [is important] because retribution is a big issue for people.”

Ensuring a charter can be monitored, enforced and that it does have a positive impact will be key for Emma and the people her organisation represents.

Huw Sherrard, Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament for Clackmannanshire, was also at the event, taking part in the discussions and hailing the workshop a “fantastic opportunity” to improve public transport.

The issue is rather relevant for the younger generations, with the teenager telling the Advertiser it is something that “unfortunately impacts so many young people in their daily lives”.

He added: “However, as well as being a key demographic affected by hate crime, the workshop also showed how vital young people are in tackling it.

“Part of a potential Hate Crime Charter that was brought up regularly was the importance of education around discrimination and abuse – both for passengers and for service providers – and it's vital that that education starts with Scotland's future commuters and passengers."