The belief that Scotland is “culturally different” and more welcoming than the rest of the UK to immigrants has been rejected as a “misleading fantasy” in a new book on racism.
The authors of No Problem Here: Understanding Racism in Scotland claim Scotland has a higher rate of race-related murders per person than the rest of the UK.
But they say Scotland’s vote to remain in the European Union in the 2016 referendum has given the “myth” that the country is not racist a “new lease of life”.
Neil Davidson, a lecturer in sociology at Glasgow University and one of the book’s authors, said: “Whatever our views on Scottish independence, a better Scotland will only be built by confronting the evil of racism rather than pretending it does not exist.”
The book, which will be launched at Holyrood’s Cross Party Group on Tackling Islamophobia on Wednesday, states that in Scotland between 2000 and 2013 there were 1.8 race-related murders per million people, compared to 1.3 per million in the rest of the UK.
It also argues that racism towards those with Irish backgrounds is not treated as seriously as it should be, because it is classed as sectarianism.
Mr Davidson said: “The idea that there is ‘no problem’, or at least much less of a problem, has grown for three reasons.
“One is that the Irish-Catholic presence - the largest ever migrant group to settle in Scotland - tends to be discussed in the context of ‘sectarianism’, a concept which treats Catholics and Protestants as equivalent and ignore the racism directed towards the former.”
He added: “The second is the relatively small size of the migration to Scotland from the Indian sub-continent and especially from the Caribbean - which did not mean that migrants did not suffer racism, just that it was much less visible than in Birmingham or London.
“Finally, the movements for devolution and independence have involved the idea that Scotland is ‘culturally’ different from England, and that part of this difference involves the Scots being more ‘welcoming’, ‘tolerant’ and so on.
“The editors and contributors to our book think these are misleading fantasies, which ignore the historical experience of Irish Catholics and the contemporary experience of Muslims, Roma and other BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) groups.”
Labour MSP Anas Sarwar, chair of the Cross Party Group on Tackling Islamophobia, said: “Scotland is an open and diverse country, but we should never allow our national pride to blind us to the fact that good and bad people live everywhere.
“In recent years we have seen the rise of Scottish exceptionalism - the idea that somehow just because we are Scottish and live in Scotland, that we’re less intolerant than our neighbours.
“It is not talking Scotland down to expose this myth. We cannot hope to eradicate everyday sexism and homophobia, everyday racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, unless we acknowledge that it exists in our workplaces, university and college campuses and playgrounds across the country.”
Carol Young, senior policy officer for the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER), said: “There’s a perception that Scotland has less of a problem with racism than other areas of the UK, perhaps best summed up by the phrase ‘we’re all Jock Tamson’s bairns’.
“But regardless of popular opinion, the statistics suggest otherwise.
“Between 2000 and 2013, the per capita rate of murders with a known or suspected racist element in Scotland was higher than in the rest of the UK - 1.8 murders per million people in the population compared to 1.3.
“In 2013-2014, 4,807 racist incidents were recorded by police in Scotland. That’s the equivalent of 92 incidents every week, without accounting for the many cases that go unreported.”
She added: “You could be white skinned, and still identifiably minority ethnic in many circumstances. Skin tone has not protected Jewish people, Irish people, Gypsy/Traveller communities or new European migrants from racism.”