Legislators in Edinburgh have been accused of “playing politics” with hate crime by a coalition of equalities groups.
They have written an open letter to the Scottish Parliament’s business managers urging them to take action after weeks of delays to a new hate crime bill.
The Sentencing of Offences Aggravated by Prejudice (Scotland) Bill was proposed by Patrick Harvie, a Scottish Green MSP, last year.
It will bring Scotland into line with England and Wales, where courts can impose tougher sentences for offences committed due to the victims disability or sexual orientation.
The move was supported in Liberal Democrat and Scottish National Party manifestos during the elections last May.
A 2004 working group, which included police, the Crown Office and gay and disabled groups recommended the legislation in 2004.
There are no guarantees that enough MSPs will support the bill, but it appears to have received a warm welcome from the government.
Stonewall Scotland, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Capability Scotland, Amnesty International, the Equality Network, SAMH, LGBT Youth Scotland, the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and HIV Scotland all signed the letter to the Scottish Parliament.
They want business managers to take action to ensure Parliament can consider the legislation at the earliest opportunity.
“It’s time Parliament stopped playing politics with hate crime,” said Calum Irving, director of Stonewall Scotland.
“Over three quarters of MSPs support this bill and yet Parliament seems unable to progress it.
“Meanwhile the Scottish Register of Tartans Bill is going through Parliament like a rabbit out of a trap.
“This shouldn’t be about politics – it’s about people’s safety and security.
“Given there are two good committees more than qualified to look at this bill and there is relatively little legislation in Parliament, the delay seems ludicrous.”
Recent Scottish studies have revealed that violence against the gay community is reaching a devastating level.
According to one such report, 36 percent of LGBT people have experienced abuse or violence in the last year, compared to 2.5% of the general population.