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News: New calls to action for Anti-Bullying Week 2022

Posted 15 November, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

respectme, Scotland’s national anti-bullying charity, has called for action to address bullying during this year’s Anti-Bullying week, announcing a new campaign hub and urging those working with children and young people to make a real commitment to change.

The Listen Up! (Respect our Rights) Campaign was created with input from respectme’s Youth Action Group, requesting all reports of bullying are taken seriously and for children’s rights to be at the heart of all effective responses to bullying.

During the development of the campaign, the young ambassadors talked at length about times they have felt unheard and shared experiences of not being taken seriously when reporting bullying to a professional or trusted adult.

Listen Up! (Respect our Rights) aims to open a national conversation to inspire adults to listen and take action to stop bullying in its tracks.

As part of the campaign, children and young people in schools, youth settings and at home will be asked to engage with the campaign by taking part in class-based lessons through drama and dance, and through new youth-led activities exploring children’s rights in the context of bullying and kindness.

Five Step Action Plan

During Anti-bullying week, and beyond, educations, schools, youth and sports clubs are invited to pledge to the charity’s Five Step Action Plan:

  • Registering for respectme’s Ant-Bullying Learning Academy eLearning modules
  • Refresh, review and update current anti-bullying policy
  • Create a pupil form or anti-bullying committee to inform anti-bullying policy and practice
  • Create simple, safe pathways for reporting bullying that respect children’s rights
  • Involve children and young people with Listen Up! Campaign activities and messages for anti bullying week 2022.

Anti-Bullying Week 2022 runs from Monday 14 November-Friday 18 November.

Click here to visit the Listen Up! (Respecting our Rights) campaign hub

Click here to find out more about Anti-Bullying Week 2022, and the wider work of respectme

"We're not doing well enough on mental health," First Minister tells young people from across Scotland

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has told an audience of young people about ‘horrific’ comments on her social media channels, why her government is not doing well enough on mental health, that she would still ‘dingy’ Donald Trump – and why she hated her first job.

She was taking part in First Minister’s Question Time Next Generation, held in Edinburgh earlier this week and run by national charities Children in Scotland and YouthLink Scotland.

Mental health services

Mental health was again a key theme for FMQT Next Generation. Riana, aged 19 and from West Dunbartonshire, asked whether the Scottish Government would invest more money in mental health support services. Despite being through the system of CAMHS, she was not diagnosed until aged 18 by adult services. She told the First Minister that the current system had failed her.

The First Minister said that a lot of work and investment was going in to this area and there were now more counsellors in schools, but admitted that: “On mental health we still don’t do enough of that and we don’t do it well enough.”

President Trump

Co-host John Loughton reminded the First Minister of a 2016 TV interview with Gary Tank Commander actor Greg McHugh in which she said she would ‘dingy’ Donald Trump. With the UK state visit of the president planned for June, was that still the case?

“If it was me, Nicola Sturgeon, ordinary citizen, it would definitely be ‘dingy’,” she said. “As First Minister I’m not going to refuse to meet the President of United States should that arise. I wouldn’t hold back from telling him where I disagreed with him.”


Responding to questions about the protection of current EU laws post-Brexit, the First Minister hit out at hardline Brexiteers, arguing that they see advantage in reducing protections for workers and the environment. She described Jacob Rees Mogg as “coming from the 17th century” and said that some politicians in the UK are guilty of “exploiting people’s fears”.


On the subject of a second independence referendum, Nicola Sturgeon responded by saying the decision had to rest ultimately with the Scottish people, given the significant changes in circumstance since the Brexit vote:

“The future of the country should not be decided by me or Theresa May, it should be decided by the people of Scotland. If people want to accept Brexit and stay in the UK that is one thing but it should not be forced upon us, we should have the ability to choose.”

Personal questions

The First Minister revealed that she sleeps five hours a night. She also talked about her first job selling tattie scones around doors in Dreghorn, which she hated so much that she used to get her dad to do it instead.

And, giving an insight into what she does to relax, she said she likes to “switch on, to switch off” by watching Coronation Street.

Social media

On negative and bullying behaviour on social media, the First Minister said she tries not to look at the “tickertape” of negative comments on her Twitter.

“If I was going to go and search my name on Twitter it would probably be pretty horrific what came up.”

She told the audience that we all have a responsibility to stand up against bullying online and accused those companies who make millions from running social media platforms of not taking their responsibilities as seriously as they should.

Responding to a question about advice she would give to young people feeling pressurised by social media, she said she that as a young person at school she was very shy and didn’t have a lot of confidence.

She gave this advice to the young people in the audience: “Be yourself and believe in yourself, and don’t let people bring you down.”

Trans rights

Ethan, aged 20 from LGBT Youth Scotland, pressed the First Minister on the current timetable for amending the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), which would allow transgender people to self-declare their gender, instead of going through the process of medical approval and certification.

There have been concerns about whether the changes will be made by 2021. Ethan asked, on behalf of trans young people in Scotland, for her guarantee that the law would change.

The First Minister reiterated her support for trans rights and said the legislation was on track to be amended by 2021. She said she understood that people may be frustrated but that it was better for it to take longer and “get it right”.

Addressing the controversy around changes to the GRA, the FM said she was disappointed the debate had become so polarised. It was her job to find a way through by making sure all sides were heard, she added.

She also highlighted the depth of transphobia in Scotland. Questioned on press reports of splits in her cabinet about the issue, she said: “That’s part of leadership – you deal with divided opinion."

Speaking after the recording, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“The decisions taken by government and other policy makers will have a profound impact on the lives of today’s young people and those in the future. That’s why it is vital that their voices are heard and their views listened to.

“It’s important that we empower children and young people to have their say on the issues that they face – the FMQT event is a great way to do that and I was delighted to have the opportunity to be involved for a second time.”

Jackie Brock, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland, said:

“This second event proves why FMQT Next Generation is quickly becoming a fixture of political debate in Scotland, and we are particularly grateful to the young people on the project Design Team for how they have led and shaped it.”

“It again made clear that young people’s insights are invaluable as we celebrate their contribution to our national life and discuss the improvements we must make for them. The challenge for the Scottish Government now is to keep listening to them in a meaningful way and take forward the vital issues they are raising through the project.”

Tim Frew, Chief Executive of YouthLink Scotland commented:

“Brexit, mental health, the cost of transport, free school meals, these are just some of the issues that directly affect young people. It’s important that we take the right of children to be heard, seriously.

“FMQT Next Generation is a national platform where young people can give their views and concerns directly to Scotland’s most powerful politician. As part of the legacy of Year of Young People we want to ensure that youth participation at both national and local level is embedded into the decision process for government, parliament and councils.”

Zander, a member of the young people’s Design Team, who shaped FMQT Next Generation, explained why he wanted to be involved in creating a platform for children’s views to be heard:

“Because I was worried about all the big decisions that are being made without asking kids what they will want in the future.”

FMQT Next Generation aims to empower children and young people to take part in political debate and provide a genuine opportunity for them to hold adult decision-makers, including the First Minister, to account.

It was the second FMQT Next Generation following its successful the launch last September as a new platform for 8-to-26 year olds.

The project, funded by the Scottish Government, builds on the participation work of YouthLink Scotland and Children in Scotland, with the aim of putting children and young people at the heart of policymaking and decisions affecting them nationally and locally.


Media contacts:

Sarah Paterson, YouthLink Scotland, or
Chris Small, Children in Scotland,

Notes to editors

If you would like to find out more about the project visit:

click here to visit YouthLink Scotland or click here to visit Children in Scotland


Click here to see the playlist on YouTube

Educational Resource:

Click here to download YouthLink Scotland's resource

More information:

Take a look at a range of different blogs that have been written in the run-up to the first FMQT Next Generation:

Sally Henry, a member of the Online Design Team has written a blog about her experience of being involved in the project. Click here to hear her story so far.

Click here to learn more about the design team and how they've been involved in Emma's blog, or click here to hear from Tamsin, a member of the online design team, as she shares her experience of why she wanted to be involved in #FMQTNextGeneration.

Click here to view the #FMQTNextGeneration videos on YouTube and hear from young people why they wanted to get involved!

Children in Scotland

Giving all children in Scotland an equal chance to flourish is at the heart of everything we do.

By bringing together a network of people working with and for children, alongside children and young people themselves, we offer a broad, balanced and independent voice. We create solutions, provide support and develop positive change across all areas affecting children in Scotland.

We do this by listening, gathering evidence, and applying and sharing our learning, while always working to uphold children’s rights. Our range of knowledge and expertise means we can provide trusted support on issues as diverse as the people we work with and the varied lives of children and families in Scotland.

YouthLink Scotland

The national agency for youth work. It is the voice of the youth work sector in Scotland.

  • It is a membership organisation and is in the unique position of representing the interests and aspirations of the whole of the sector both voluntary and statutory.
  • YouthLink Scotland champions the role and value of the youth work sector, challenging government at national and local levels to invest in the development of the sector.
  • YouthLink Scotland represents over 100 organisations, including the 32 Local Authority Youth Work Services and all major national voluntary youth work organisations, which support over 300,000 young people in achieving their potential.
  • YouthLink Scotland promotes a positive image of Scotland’s young people and seeks to promote their value to communities and society.

Watch FMQT Next Generation

View the programme, which was co-hosted by Razannah Hussain and John Loughton

Click to visit our YouTube

Young people speaking truth to power

Find out more about our project giving children the chance to hold political leaders to account

Click here to read more

Meet the FMQT Design Team

Watch a film from the launch of FMQT last year and meet the young people behind it

Click here to watch the film

Blog: Why I added my voice to the project

FMQT Online Design Team member Sally Henry, aged 16, on why she wanted to take part

Click here to read the blog

“When a child moves from primary to secondary, there is a drastic upping of stakes in social comparison”

14 December 2018

For our 25 Calls campaign we interviewed Professor Richard Wilkinson, co-author of the groundbreaking book The Spirit Level and its 2018 follow-up The Inner Level. In part four of an extensive interview, he discusses how intersecting identities of gender, race and more are affected by increased inequality, and why family environment shapes our perceptions of the world

Children in Scotland: What do you think about intersectionality and discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, age, sexuality, how that might figure in producing poorer wellbeing in children and young people?

Richard Wilkinson: They’re spin-offs of the same issues. Given that there is this huge differential in how much people are valued, no one wants to belong to a group who are seen as inferior whether that is a matter of class, ethnicity or gender. If you’re black you mind all the discrimination against ethnic minorities very much. And if you’re gay or female similarly. These aren’t separate issues. I often say that when anything becomes a marker of low social status it then attracts what are basically the same forms of discrimination, so whether it’s lower class accents, or whether it’s skin colour, or religious affiliation, or in some societies the language group, when any of those become markers of inferiority or low social status, they attract the same sort of stigma and discrimination. And the way we must get rid of them is making sure that there isn’t this huge differential in how people are valued.

Being at the bottom of the social ladder would not of course feel much better if you knew that equal numbers of men, women, black, and white, and so on were at the bottom of the social ladder. We have to make sure the differences are smaller and the social ladder is not so steep.

CiS: You describe in The Inner Level how inequality penetrates family life from the earliest age. Could you say a bit more about how that comes about and how we might be able to prevent it?

RW: The quality of social relationships in the family, from very early on, shape the development of children. People have always talked about the quality of family life as being crucial – indeed more important than whether you have one parent or two parents is the quality of your relationships with whoever your carer or carers are. And, again, I think we need to see this in terms of evolutionary psychology. I’m sorry to keep repeating this, but people’s social environment, their subjective experience, can influence gene expression meaning not that it changes your genetic make-up but that it switches genes on and off so you develop differently according to your social experience. The point of those mechanisms, why we have them and why they exist in animals and even plants, is to allow the young to adapt to the kind of world they’re growing up in.

So a plant which experiences drought early on becomes better able to deal with drought when fully grown. In human beings it’s a matter of: what kind of social relationships are we going to have to deal with? Am I going to have to fight for what I can get? Learn not to trust others because we’re rivals? Or am I in a world where I depend on trust, on reciprocity, on cooperation? Although family life is no longer a good indication of what the world out there in wider society is like, early social experiences still affects our emotional and cognitive development in a way that would have made perfect sense if you were part of a hunting and gathering band, where you interacted with lots of adults and you should learn whether everyone is cooperative and helpful or whether there’s a lot of conflict.

The strong tendency to much higher rates of bullying in more unequal societies is perhaps because children are almost programmed into hierarchical relationships. I don’t think we’re in a position to make a clear distinction between how much comes from family life and how much comes from school experience, but it is clear that when children move from primary school to secondary school and into their teenage years, suddenly finding themselves in this enormous social environment with a thousand or more other kids, it’s an incredibly difficult process. It drastically ups the stakes on social comparisons and puts you in a framework where you feel vulnerable to being judged all the time rather than being amongst a small group of people who know you well and have bonds with. And the experience of bullying can leave life-long scars. It affects how people see themselves and feel others see them; it makes social interaction much more fraught.

CiS: In terms of a family that might be struggling, exposed to violence, or dealing with poverty, do you think we’re any further forward in policy terms in early intervention? In Scotland, it could be argued, it’s talked about, paid lip service to, but there’s little sign of a substantive policy and legislative shift around it.

RW: I think the Labour government was making some progress in reducing child poverty and providing some preschool support but some of that’s been undone, and of course child poverty is forecast to rise. It’s very damaging. Not only in the way I’ve described, but also because there is a sense in which part of the function of parenting is to pass on the experience of life, so if you as a parent have experienced a lot of adversity and felt you had to fight for what you can get, then you probably feel you need to toughen your children up to prepare them for that same experience. I sometimes refer to a court case where women were on trial because they’d been making their toddlers fight. On trial they apparently showed no remorse, but said it was important to toughen [the children] up. If that’s your experience of the social world then you can’t let your children grow up too soft. And yet, if they find themselves in a different world they may not be good at being cooperative and trusting, which would have looked soft in another world. So, it’s not a matter of whether we should all be either more cooperative or harder, in about adjusting to the reality of the society you’re in. Why I focus on inequalities, is because I think it makes a fundamental difference to the social reality – the quality of social relationships – in the wider society.

Click here to read part one of the interview

Click here to read part two of the interview

Click here to read part three of the interview

Richard Wilkinson is Professor Emeritus of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, Honorary Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London and Visiting Professor at University of York. He co-founded The Equality Trust with Kate Pickett.

The Inner Level is published by Penguin.

Interview by Chris Small. Edited by Morgaine Das Varma.

About the interviewee

Co-author of 'The Spirit Level', Richard Wilkinson is a world renowned expert on inequality

Click here to find out more

Read part 3 of the interview

“There is so much more bullying in schools in more unequal societies. But why?”

Click to read the Q&A

Read part 2 of the interview

“Inequality makes us more antisocial so we use social media more antisocially than in an egalitarian society”

Click to read the Q&A

Read part 1 of the interview

“How do we challenge inequality? We need to build a mass movement”

Click to read the Q&A

What can you do about child poverty?

Professor Wilkinson contributed context and analysis to Call 2, on tackling child poverty

Click to read the call

25 Calls to improve children's lives

We spoke to Professor Wilkinson as part of our 25 Calls campaign

Click to find out more

“There is so much more bullying in schools in more unequal societies. But why?”

12 December 2018

As part of our 25 Calls campaign we spoke to Professor Richard  Wilkinson, co-author of the groundbreaking book The Spirit Level and its 2018 follow-up The Inner Level. In part three of our interview, he discusses the effect inequality has on cultures of bullying, and the importance of positive social relationships for bolstering emotional and physical health

Children in Scotland: There’s evidence that in schools where the young people have been allowed to lead on the anti-bullying strategies, and there’s very strong effective leadership from the Head, and a values-driven culture in the school, that there’s less bullying. Do you feel there are examples like this we should pursue and highlight which could counteract what you’re describing?

Richard Wilkinson: Well, I do think first it’s very clear from several studies that there is enormously more bullying in schools in more unequal societies. There’s a close relationship between inequality and the frequency of bullying. There’s 10 or 12 times as much bullying in schools in more unequal societies [Elgar FJ. et al. School bullying, homicide and income inequality. International Journal of Public Health 58, 237-245, 2013]. But I do think you can protect children from it by creating a different social environment in the school where children then learn to adopt other strategies which are less damaging, and cause less misery and conflict. But if you think of monkey dominance hierarchies, they are bullying hierarchies – bullying behaviour is about ranking, not necessarily by money but by any means possible to put other people down to build yourself up, and to use whatever strategy seems appropriate in the setting.

CiS: What ways do you think we have to counteract the stress caused by social comparison before we’re able to produce the mass movement that you were talking about? One could argue that the popularity of mindfulness for example, which is basically a repackaging of meditation, might account for more and more people looking for ways of escaping that kind of stress.

RW: Well, we wrote our most recent book, The Inner Level, partly because I think how people are most intimately affected by inequality is through the way it increases all those self-doubts and anxieties, that sense of awkwardness in social meetings, our worries about how you’re seen and judged. And, of course, they serve to separate us from each other. Because it makes social contact more stressful, we withdraw from it.

But as studies of health and happiness show, to be able to enjoy good quality social relationships and to be involved with friends, family and community is essential to human wellbeing. The quality of social relationships, people’s involvement with each other, has been shown repeatedly to be crucial determinants of both health and happiness.

I think an important first step is maybe to start admitting to each other that we all have those social anxieties, so they cease to be so divisive, hidden like a guilty secret, and become something shared. Most people treat their social anxieties as if they were a private psychological weakness. Rather than show weakness, we put up a pretence that we’re confident and don’t have these self-doubts. Maybe we could get nearer a social movement with deeper roots by overcoming the divisiveness of those anxieties and realising that we all share them. But that needs to be coupled with a recognition of the things like inequality that increase these problems. Only then will we be able to act together really effectively. Rather than things like Facebook being used as a narcissistic self-presentation, I hope we’ll get a new trend in Facebook where people are open about how stressful and difficult life can be. We must learn to see through the smiling faces saying that life is wonderful which we put on. We need to share the reality and start to get to grips with it.

To recognise that whether we go in for narcissistically bigging ourselves up or whether we withdraw from social life and become depressed, both are responses to the same kind of anxieties about how we are seen and judged. We must recognise that that’s part of our common humanity that should unite us rather than separate us, and can be reduced by reducing inequality.

CiS: Research seems to suggest that young women’s mental health becomes poorer in many cases in teenage years. Do you think that’s about social comparison at that point in their lives becoming intensified?

RW: Yes I think it’s that social comparisons become more acute in your teens. For teenagers, whether or not you have a boyfriend or girlfriend becomes a real influence on self-esteem. For some it’s absolutely central to self-esteem. The breakup of a relationship is pretty appalling for anyone, but for many people, particularly young people, their whole sense of self-worth is dependent on feeling appreciated by a partner. So much is focused on that that, it puts a huge burden on those relationships, and shows the need for other sources of esteem to do with feeling more confident about how one’s seen and judged and one’s abilities.
CiS: How would you explain the concept of social capital to an audience who don’t know about it?

RW: The concept of social capital involves social connections. Whether people are able to come together as a community and do things together in our common interest, or whether the public arena is something to be exploited for your own benefit. It includes involvement in community life, neighbourliness, public-spiritedness, a sense of public service, all those things. But that embeddedness in community life with each other, with social purposes, is enormously beneficial to us as individuals. A society that is really atomised, in which we have so little to do with each other, is damaging to us. We no longer get that sense of self-worth, of self-realisation, through our activity and relation to others. But you see so clearly in the data that each step rise in inequality leads to lower levels of trust, weaker community life. There are even studies that show that people are less willing to help each other in more unequal societies, less willing to help the elderly, the disabled, and so on. And of course you also get the very well established rises in violence, as measured by homicide rates, that go with greater inequality.

Moving from societies where there is a good deal of reciprocity and people are willing to help each other, through to societies in which trust breaks down, community life weakens and violence increases, represents the continuum from a good society to an antisocial, atomised kind of society. And if you look at the most unequal societies like South Africa or Mexico where income differences are much bigger than in societies like the United States or Britain you see that people are actually afraid of each other. There are bars on windows and doors, razor wire around people’s yards and so on. They are more likely to have a gun culture, because you feel you have to defend yourself. Research even shows that the proportion of the labour force involved in what is called guard labour – security staff, police, prison staff – goes up with inequality because those are the people who we use to protect ourselves from each other. It’s just an appalling picture of how fundamentally destructive inequality is of the social relationships which we are all psychologically dependant on.

Click here to read part one of the interview

Click here to read part two of the interview

Click here to read part four of the interview 

Richard Wilkinson is Professor Emeritus of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, Honorary Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London and Visiting Professor at University of York. He co-founded The Equality Trust with Kate Pickett.

The Inner Level is published by Penguin.

Interview by Chris Small. Edited by Morgaine Das Varma.

About the interviewee

Co-author of 'The Spirit Level', Richard Wilkinson is a world renowned expert on inequality

Click to find out more

25 Calls

We spoke to Professor Wilkinson as part of our 25 Calls campaign

Click to find out more

Read part 1 of the intrerview

"To challenge inequality, we need a mass movement"

Click here to read the Q&A

Read part 2 of the interview

"We use social media more antisocially than we would in an egalitarian society”

Click to read the Q&A