Aberdeen 'is worst city for racism'

IT IS Scotland's whitest city. Now, officially at least, Aberdeen is also the most racist.

Figures released yesterday show Europe's self-styled "oil capital" has racked up more reports of racism per head than any other local authority area in Scotland.

Police recorded 479 racist incidents in the city in 2008-2009, up 57 per cent from the same period a year before, according to new statistics from the Scottish Government.

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Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Robert Brown last night said the spike in the Aberdeen figure was "truly shocking".

Officials quickly attributed the rise to a get-tough attitude to race offences from local authorities in the North-east. But – with a large number of the Aberdeen victims understood to have been migrants from England or eastern Europe – the figures appear to have been inflated by a nationwide increase in reporting of "white-on-white" racism.

It was in Aberdeen last January last year that a 22-year-old brought up in the city but born in Cheltenham was beaten brutally for what her assailant took to be an English accent.

Jeannie Felsinger, of Grampian Racial Equality Council or GREC, said: "Colour is not always the issue. You only have to look at the situation with racism against Scottish travellers to see that."

Ms Felsinger said she saw the rise in Aberdeen cases as "encouraging" and a sign of public confidence that they can report such incidents to the police.

GREC keeps its own tally on incidents in Aberdeen. It found the biggest group of victims in the city were Africans – especially students who work the doors of the city's pubs and clubs. But they were closely followed by eastern Europeans, Indians working in the catering trade, and Scots and English.

"Aberdeen is a much more diverse place than it was a decade ago," she added. The city, one of the whitest in Britain in the 2001 census, officially recorded 12 per cent of children in its schools as being from a minority, nearly half of the from non-UK white backgrounds.

Aberdeen's experience may not be as out of kilter as it first appears.

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Overall police reports of racist incidents have been tailing off in recent years. The Scottish figure officially dipped 2 per cent in 2008-9, to 5,123. But figures for the number of victims who are officially classified as "white" have continued to rise. There were 826 "white British" victims of racist incidents in 2004-5 but 1,091 last year.

Given that 96 per cent of all perpetrators of such incidents are also "white British", that suggests a lot of racist bile between Scots and English.

The number of racist victims classed as "other white" has grown even faster, from 130 in 2004-5, the first year of migration from eastern Europe, to a record 508 last year.

Aberdeen Central MSP Lewis Macdonald has watched race relations in the North-east for years. "The police are getting much better at recording a racial incident – when somebody during a fight calls somebody else an English 'B', for example", he said yesterday. "But there is a lot more work to be done. The police are recording more racist incidents but they are not having as much success proving racial aggravation in the court of law."

The SNP's Brian Adam, who represents Aberdeen North, said he believed the truth would have to be "teased out" of yesterday's figures.

A Scottish Government spokesman attributed the Aberdeen rise in racist incidents to local campaigns to increase reporting.

There is still plenty of "white-on-black" racism in Scotland. The Pakistani community remains by far the most victimised in the country.