Number of racist attacks in Capital doubles in two years

RACIST attacks have nearly doubled in Edinburgh during the past two years - the highest rise in Scotland.

New figures published today show that a total of 976 racist incidents were reported to police between April 2005 and March 2006, representing a massive increase on the 519 attacks reported in 2003/04.

Police chiefs stressed that the willingness of victims to come forward was having an impact on the volume of reported incidents.

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But ethnic minority community leaders say that race attacks are increasing after being fuelled by terrorist atrocities carried out by Muslims.

The high student population in the Capital, the city's large ethnic community and the recent influx of Polish workers which has seen more than 25,000 come to Edinburgh, have been cited as other factors behind the increase.

During the same two-year period in Glasgow, the number of race crimes climbed from 1066 to 1277 while in Aberdeen the figure rose only slightly from 231 to 267.

The Scottish Executive study also revealed that more than 5000 racist incidents were recorded by the police across the country in 2005/6.

More than half of those attacks were carried out against people of Asian origin and predominantly on Friday and Saturday nights by white men aged under 20.

Jalal Chaudry, the Edinburgh and East of Scotland representative on the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "I believe the rise in Edinburgh is due both to a growing confidence, particularly among the younger generation, to report racism, but also a rise in racist attacks generally.

"The new generation has more courage to contact police than older generations who were more likely to ignore it.

"The police attitude is very co-operative and that helps too. But there are more and more racist incidents because of the terrorist cases which are always in the news.

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"That feeds violence against Muslims who are all being blamed for this. It is dangerous for a Muslim to walk down Princes Street after dark."

A race crime is defined to be "any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person".

A police spokeswoman said the increase comes as victims are more willing to approach the police. She said: "At Lothian and Borders Police we have put in place many new ways people can report race crimes, including the remote reporting scheme, which enables victims to report crimes to a third party, such as through the health service, should they be afraid to speak to police directly.

"Racist crime of any nature or form will not and should not be tolerated by society. The public are much more aware nowadays of the issue of racist crimes and are more willing to come forward to report these types of incidents."

Lothian and Borders Police boosted measures to protect ethnic minorities after fears of a backlash following the July 7 terrorist atrocities in London in 2005.

Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson was today set to meet representatives of Muslim communities in Scotland - a follow-up to First Minister Jack McConnell's recent meeting with Scotland's Imams and Mosque leaders.

She said: "All crimes are an affront to the values we hold dear, but crimes committed against someone because of the colour of their skin or their country of origin are particularly sickening."

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