THE number of racist incidents reported to the police in Edinburgh has soared to almost three a day – but equality campaigners say the real problem is even worse.
Official figures showed a 20 per cent increase in recorded racist incidents in the Capital last year, twice the national average. They rose from 844 in 2010-11 to 1017 in 2011-12.
Across Scotland, the number of racist incidents was up by ten per cent – the first increase in five years.
And there was a 24 per cent increase in incidents where the victims were classed as “white British”, raising fears that anti-English racism is on the rise in Scotland.
Incidents targeting white people from other parts of the UK accounted for 22 per cent of the total, second only to those against Pakistanis.
Alastair Pringle, director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland, said the white British victims could include English police officers serving in Scotland. “There have also been reports of racial abuse of English people living and working in Scotland,” he said,
The increase in racist incidents in Edinburgh was one of the biggest anywhere in the country. Foysol Choudhury, chairman of the Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council (ELREC), said one reason for the rise was that victims felt more confident about coming forward to report incidents.
“It shows hard work by organisations like ours is paying off, and people are coming forward and making reports.”
But he said he believed there was still a serious problem of under-reporting of racist incidents.
He said: “Quite a lot of people come to ELREC about something that has happened to them and they have not reported the incident because they don’t want to increase the tensions or create more aggravation.
“There was a guy in Niddrie who was having his house stoned every day, and I said to him: ‘Why don’t you report it to the police?’ He said: ‘If I want to stay in the area, I have to put up with this’. The problem carried on and eventually he moved away.
“But it’s important we work hard to get people to report incidents. Unless people make reports, the police will not know what is going on and no-one will be able to do anything.”
ELREC is currently conducting its own survey on hate crime, via its website , in a bid to get a clearer and more detailed picture of the problem.
Mr Choudhury said the answer to tackling racist behaviour was to educate people from an early age.
“We should put more effort in schools into explaining each other’s cultures,” he said.
“I don’t think there is any other way of tackling racism but education.
“I think it needs to start in primary school.”
Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said the figures were “deeply worrying”.
She said: “This is a cause for alarm and should make politicians sit up and ask whether we are doing enough to address it. If anything, Edinburgh has a more diverse population than many parts of Scotland. You would think that would make us more tolerant and welcoming, so maybe Edinburgh needs to sit up and ask that question, too.”
Across Scotland as a whole, there were 5389 incidents recorded in 2011-12, ten per cent higher than the 4911 incidents recorded in 2010-11.
Edinburgh’s 20 per cent increase compares with a 13 per cent increase in Glasgow and slight falls in Aberdeen and Dundee.
Lothian & Borders Police board convener Iain Whyte acknowledged the figures might cause concern, but he welcomed the apparent greater confidence in reporting incidents.
He said: “While this might appear worrying on the face of it, in some ways it’s quite good there is a rise in recorded racist incidents because we have known for some time the number reported is far lower than the experience perceived to be out there when you survey the public and particularly those from black and ethnic minority communities.”
He added: “In Edinburgh and Lothian & Borders, the police and other agencies and support groups have been doing a lot to encourage people to report incidents and improve their confidence they will be properly dealt with.
“Unless we get a full picture of what is going on it is very difficult to tackle the issue.”
The figures, published by the Scottish Government, showed across the country men aged 26-35 were the most likely victims of racist incidents, while men aged 20 or younger were most commonly the perpetrators, accounting for 40 per cent of reported cases.
Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham said she was disappointed to see an increase in the number of racist incidents recorded by Scottish police forces.
“It is all the more disheartening given the downward trend observed in recent years,” she added.
However, she said it could reflect individuals and communities being better engaged with the police and having more confidence to report perpetrators of such crimes.
Ms Cunningham said: “Scotland has an outstanding reputation as a welcoming and tolerant nation and we cannot let a minority of people tarnish our image.
“We want Scotland to be a country where all our people can live free from fear and discrimination.
“Regardless of the reasons for the increase, we must continue with the work we are doing to tackle racism and hatred in all its forms while constantly looking at new ways of getting across the message to the next generation of young Scots.”
ABUSE CAN LEAD TO MORE SERIOUS OFFENCES
RACIST graffiti and volleys of abuse aimed at shopkeepers and takeaway staff are among the most common forms of racist abuse.
The courts in the Lothians have dealt with a number of cases during this year where sickening abuse was aimed at ordinary members of the public going about their business.
But Victim Support Scotland today pointed out that these type of incidents can spiral into even more serious crimes.
That fact was made tragically clear by the case of takeaway delivery driver Simon San, who lost his life after being attacked in Lochend in August 2010.
Mr San, 40, died after hitting his head on the ground when one attacker, John Reid, 16, struck him with a single blow.
Lothian and Borders Police later apologised after a subsequent inquiry, launched following complaints from the San family, found that officers failed to record the killing as a racist crime, despite witness accounts that the youths who attacked Mr San had referred to him as a “Chinky”.
A Victim Support spokesman said: “We know that crimes that start of at the level of racist abuse can lead to more serious offences. It’s quite right that the police target every level of racist incidents.
“This rise in reports of racist incidents probably reflect the fact that victims feel more confident in coming forward. But as an organisation which helps victims, we will not be satisfied until reports of racist incidents are coming down because they are not taking place.”
‘I feel safer in South Africa’
IN one high-profile race case, a teenage student posted an account of being abused on a city bus on YouTube.
South African Riaz Moola, 19, said he was targeted for no apparent reason by a man who launched a tirade of racist abuse – before threatening to stab him.
Fellow passengers had to step in to stop the attacker getting back on the bus after the driver threw him off. Mr Moola, a computer sciences student, posted a YouTube video describing the South Clerk Street incident, which happened as he made his way home from university last December. He said at the time: “Edinburgh’s not safe – things like that never happened to me in South Africa, supposedly one of the most dangerous places in the world.
“I actually feel safer in South Africa after what has happened to me here.”