RACISM in Scotland is a "cancer" that is getting bigger every day, it was claimed yesterday, as new figures revealed a large rise in attacks on members of ethnic- minority communities.
The number of racist crimes recorded by the police in Scotland was 6,439 in 2005-6, up 12 per cent from 5,732 the previous year and representing an average of more than 17 crimes every day.
The most extensive analysis of racism ever conducted in Scotland also found that 5,124 racist incidents, including verbal abuse and forms of discrimination, were recorded in 2005-6 - an increase of 588 (13 per cent).
Most victims, the Scottish Executive research found, were of Asian origin, the largest group being Pakistani.
Last night a leading member of Scotland's Pakistani community said racism was rife and getting worse.
Shami Khan, Edinburgh's only Asian councillor, said: "It's a cancer of society and it's getting worse day by day, especially for the Muslim community.
"These figures are just the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of victims are scared and don't want to come."
Over the last three years, the annual total has gone up from 4,556 to 5,732 and then to 6,439. But the total figure for the first of those years excludes Central Scotland Police, who did not supply figures in time after changing their recording system.
Most racist incidents took place on the street and commonly occurred on a Friday or Saturday night.
Justice minister Cathy Jamieson said: "Crimes committed against someone because of the colour of their skin or their country of origin are particularly sickening.
"I know that the police and other criminal-justice agencies are working hard to provide reassurance and advice to our ethnic-minority communities.
"That has led to more awareness within the police of racist crimes and better recording.
"In turn there is a greater willingness to report these incidents by the public - though I am sure we are not yet seeing the full picture."
But Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action in Housing, said there was "no evidence" to show the rise was due to growing confidence in the police.
"Year in, year out, the official bodies, including the police, say a fall in reporting means less racism and a rise means more confident minorities.
"In fact, our experience working with our service users, asylum seekers, refugees and new migrants - and backed up by a Glasgow University study into racism and Strathclyde police - demonstrates that as many as 80 per cent of racist incidents go unreported."
• 1,543 victims of racist crime last year were of Pakistani origin, compared with nearly 1,400 in 2002-3.
• More than 1,000 victims were classed as being "white British".
• The biggest group of perpetrators last year were males aged 16-20 (937).
• Home Office figures show that 36,572 racially aggravated crimes were reported south of the Border in the period 2005-6.
'It's always the same - police are too busy'
JUNAID Ahmed has given up reporting the litany of racist abuse his family has put up with.
"It's always the same. I report something and they tell me they're too busy to send someone out," the 36-year-old Edinburgh shopkeeper said.
The worst incident happened last May, he says, when a racist thug entered his shop and spat on his 14-year-old son, Hosam.
He claims it took police three days to turn up at the store.
"I don't have to wait long before I hear the word 'Paki' and 'bastard' in my shop, and this is supposed to be a posh part of town," said Mr Ahmed, who runs a food store in Broughton Street, on the edge of the New Town.
Three years ago, Mr Ahmed, who has lived in Scotland for 14 years, suffered a broken nose and jaw after being attacked in his shop.
And in the past three years, his car has been attacked nine times, including one occasion when the word "Paki" was scratched on the side.
"I think it would helpful if people realise these things are happening," he said.
"It's not every person; it's the minority - but the problem is definitely there."