RACISM in Scotland is now almost as likely to be directed against white people as any other group, new figures show.
While crime continues to fall in Scotland, prejudice based on ethnicity has risen 10 per cent in a year, information from the police has revealed.
The rise is partly driven by incidents against those defined as “white British”, which are up 50 per cent in seven years to 1,295 in 2011-12, making it the second most targeted group.
At the same time, the number of Pakistani victims has fallen consistently to 1,357 incidents last year, compared with 1,773 in 2004-05, the figures, published by the Scottish Government, disclose.
Last night, experts claimed anti-English sentiments among a minority of Scots were driving the rise.
Alastair Pringle, director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland, said: “The rise in the number of white British people who have been victims of racial incidents can be attributed to a number of
“We believe that a number of white British victims may be English police officers serving in Scotland who have been the subject of racial abuse and assault in the course of detaining and interviewing Scottish subjects.
“There have also been reports of racial abuse of English people living and working in Scotland.
“However, this is not to say that the majority of Scots are racially intolerant – on the contrary. Unfortunately, it’s the age-old case of the minority giving the majority a bad name.”
In 4,075 incidents (83 per cent) the perpetrator was also “white British”, suggesting there has not been a rise in abuse by people of other ethnicities.
Overall, there were 5,389 racist incidents – events reported to the police, many of which fell short of being classified as crimes – in 2011-12, compared with 4,911 the previous year.
There was also a 5 per cent rise in the number of crimes reported as the result of a racist incident, up to 6,472.
They included 73 crimes of violence or sexual offences, 325 of fireraising or vandalism, and 803 common assaults.
Men were more likely to be victims, and 34 per cent of people targeted were aged 26 to 35. Of all victims, 44 per cent were of Asian origin.
Community safety minister Roseanna Cunningham said the actions of a few should not make Scotland a more intolerant country.
“We want Scotland to be a country where all our people can live free from fear and discrimination.
She added: “Along with tough enforcement through record numbers of police officers on our streets, community engagement and education is driving home the message that there is no place for racism of any kind in Scotland.”
The Scottish Government and police are hopeful that the rise in racism figures is partly down to more victims having the confidence to report abuse.
Racism has been under-reported in the past and organisations, such as the Edinburgh and Lothians Racial Equality Council, believe these figures are still just the tip of the iceberg.
Alison McInnes, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman, said: “The increase in reporting racist incidents from witnesses gives us hope that fewer people will turn a blind eye to this despicable behaviour.”
The Scottish Government highlighted that the rise comes at a time when religious and homophobic hatred are also on the up, suggesting we are becoming less tolerant as a society.