LAST week, on International Women’s Day, a working group on misogyny, commissioned by the Scottish Government and chaired by leading lawyer, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, published a powerful and ground-breaking report. 

It sets out very clearly just how the “daily grind” of sexual harassment and abuse directed at women and girls affects our everyday lives, and it looks at what more can be done to ensure that harassment and abuse, driven by misogyny, is tackled and ultimately eradicated.

The report proposes that there should be a new Misogyny and Criminal Justice Act in Scotland

It recommends that the Act include a statutory misogyny aggravation – this means that if someone commits a crime, for example assault, that is motivated by misogyny, they sentence they receive could be more severe.

The report also recommends that there shoud be three new criminal offences in Scotland to reflect and better address the daily lived experience of so many women.

Baroness Kennedy’s report is extremely timely. Just a few days before it was published, woman across the UK marked one year since the horrific murder of Sarah Everard in London.

To mark the anniversary, hundreds of women attended a vigil outside the Scottish Parliament – with many speaking out about the abuse, harassment and violence which forces them to adapt their own behaviours and restrict their own lives to protect themselves from the abuse, harassment and violence of men.

Of course, not all men act in this way and not all men are misogynist – however, virtually all women do face misogyny and sexism during their lifetimes. It is an epidemic – and in many ways, with more polarised public discourse and the often toxic influence of social media, it feels like it is getting worse. It is time to act.

We have chance now to make a significant difference to the lives of women and girls in Scotland – which is why the Scottish Government welcomes the recommend-ations of this report in principle and will now give full consideration to the detail.

At the same time as women in Scotland were peacefully demanding change and further progress towards a truly equal society, the reality for women and girls in Ukraine could not be more different.

The situation for the Ukrainian people – many of whom are either on the frontline of an illegal war waged by Russia, or fleeing from their homes to save the lives of their children – is one which the vast majority of us cannot even begin to comprehend.

Ukraine badly needs the support of the world in its hour of need, and the Scottish Government is committed to providing as much practical support as possible.

I know that we all feel helpless when we watch the scenes of death and devastation caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine, but there are steps we can take to help. Indeed, the generosity of people across Scotland is already incredible.

The Disasters Emergency Committee, which brings together the leading international aid agencies across the UK, raised over well over £10 million in Scotland in the last two weeks alone. Please donate if you can.

Deanston Bakery in Shawlands, run by Ukrainian Yuriy Kachak, opened a week past Sunday to raise funds for those affected by the war. People queued round the block to buy cakes and bread – £30,000 was raised over the day.

And a charity set up years back by Hibs football fans, Dnipro Kids, has evacuated a bus full of orphaned children out of Ukraine across the Polish border to safety.

The hundreds of stories of kindness we have heard about over the last three weeks have been uplifting, especially at a time when many of us feel disorientated, overwhelmed and simply horrified at Putin’s actions.

A week ago today I visited the Ukrainian Club in Edinburgh to speak to people from Ukraine who now live in Scotland. Many of them have family living in cities like Kharkiv and Odessa that are under siege. I was deeply moved by their stories. One thing which they were insistent on was that the world must continue to open its doors to those from Ukraine who are seeking sanctuary.

Our European allies have opened their hearts and doors to the people of Ukraine. But sadly those trying to reach the UK have, so far, been met with a wall of bureaucracy and red tape.

It is neither reasonable nor morally acceptable to expect people fleeing war to go through complex bureaucratic processes to reach safety in the UK.

That is why I am urging the Prime Minister to emulate other EU countries and adopt a policy of ‘humanity and sanctuary first, paperwork later’.

He should waive visa requirements for Ukrainian nationals seeking refuge in the UK, and establish a comprehensive and funded settlement programme, with proper support.

I know that people in Scotland are desperate to provide the people of Ukraine with practical support, aid and refuge. To do as much as we know we can to support those fleeing their country, we need to work together – quickly and efficiently – and Scotland stands ready to do just that.