Increased levels of Islamophobia and negative attitudes towards Polish people could be behind a 20% rise in racist incidents in Scotland, experts have said.
Every day in Scotland, 17 people are abused, threatened or violently attacked because of the colour of their skin, ethnicity or nationality. Statistics showed that 6171 incidents of racism were recorded in 2009/10 – a rise of 20.4% from the 5123 racist incidents recorded in 2008/9.
The figures, revealed in a freedom of information request to Scotland’s eight police forces, come despite there only being a 13% increase over the previous five years. Part of the rise is thought to be down to an increase in anti-Polish attacks, with the Federation of Poles in Great Britain saying there has been an annual 20% rise in racist incidents.
Alastair McIntosh, fellow at the Centre of Human Ecology and a co-author of studies into racism in Scotland, said Islamophobia is also a problem in Scotland. He said:
“Whenever you have the fear of poverty, people tend to become xenophobic, and I think that’s an increasing issue in Scotland with the economic problems we’ve had recently. Muslims in particular are having a hard time of it, and they all seem to get tarred with the same brush. It would be true to say Islamophobia is a problem in this country.”
According to figures released in 2010, race hate victims were most likely to be of Pakistani origin, with 48% of all those targeted classed as Asian, followed by white British. The majority of victims – 76% – were men and the vast majority of race hate perpetrators – 96% – were classed as white British. Of these, most were men aged 16-20, followed by men under the age of 16.
Strathclyde Police reported the highest number of incidents with 2826, while Lothian and Borders Police dealt with 1494 incidents. The lowest recorded total was in Dumfries and Galloway, where police dealt with 70 racist incidents.