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The hidden racism problem in Scotland

The hidden racism problem in Scotland

Categories: Latest News

Friday May 11 2018

The Brexit vote is frequently used by academics, politicians and campaigners to demonstrate a period of time which highlighted the problem of racism in England and Wales. Equally, the vote was also used by many to argue the ‘accepting’ and ‘tolerating’ nature of Scotland where the majority voted to remain in the EU. However, a new study claims that this point of view is far too naive and ignores the very real fact that racism, and Islamophobia in particular, is a significant problem in Scotland.

Within the book, titled: ‘No Problem here: Understanding Racism in Scotland’, Mr Neil Davidson, Ms Maureen McBride, Mr Nasar Meer and Mr Paul Goldie discuss the discrimination facing particular communities, such as the Irish and Muslim communities, in Scotland.

The book quotes official hate crime figures to demonstrate that in fact racist murders were more prevalent in Scotland relative to the rest of the UK. Indeed, in Scotland, there were 1.8 murders per million people allegedly motivated by race, 2000-2013. The equivalent figure for the whole of the UK was significantly lower at 1.3 murders per million people.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service did state that in the year 2016/17 there were 3,349 recorded incidents of race-based hate crimes. This follows a downward trend since a peak in 2011-12.

However, authors of the book new book argue that the figure has fuelled the idea that the problem of racism in Scotland is smaller than it actually is.

Mr Davidson, a sociology lecturer at Glasgow University with a particular interest in contemporary class structure, said one problem was that often anti-Irish racism was reported as sectarianism rather than racism. Therefore, the figures quoted for race-motivated hate crimes substantially underestimate the problem.

Mr Davidson further added that: “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”.

He claimed that: “These are misleading fantasies, which ignore the historical experience of Irish Catholics and the contemporary experience of Muslims, Roma and other BAME groups”.

Mr Anas Sarwar, Labour MSP for the Glasgow region, responded by stating that: “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”.

Mr Sarwar added: “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”.

Mr Ivan McKee, SNP MSP for Glasgow Provan, has said: “We have never shied away from the fact that Scotland is no more immune from Islamophobia and racism than anywhere else and that this serious problem must be tacked head-on”.

At a time when the UK is reflecting on how pervasive structural racism is within its socioeconomic and political field, the study is a poignant reminder that the problem of racial hatred is a problem for the whole of the UK.

Indeed, a 17-year-old appeared in court only this week, 7 May 2018, for repeatedly stabbing Mr Shabaz Ali in a racially aggravated assault in Edinburgh. The defendant allegedly shouted: “Why are you still here? Why are you not back in your own country?”

Another case which has propelled Scotland’s hidden racism problem to the forefront of national news is that of the vile Islamophobic abuse that was directed against MSP Anas Sarwar and Scottish Transport Secretary Humza Yousaf. Both have said that the problem of racism, and in particular Islamophobia, is worsening in Scotland.


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