New report highlights declining rate of racism and religious hate crimes in Scotland
Categories: Latest News
Monday June 25 2018
Scotland is often hailed as being a forerunner in tackling racism and religious hate crimes, and the new report by the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), Scotland’s Prosecution Service, which lays out figures for hate crime incidents recorded in Scotland in 2017-18 greatly bolsters this idea.
The report notes that in 2017-18, 3,249 incidents of hate crime were reported which were a decrease of around 4% from the previous year and the “lowest annual total since consistent figures became available in 2003-04”.
The report adds that of the racial charges levied 91% led to court proceedings.
The report also states that in 2017-18, 642 religiously aggravated charges were reported which was around 5% lower than the previous year; though still higher than the previous three years between 2013 and 2015.
The report adds that of the religiously-aggravated charges levied 92% led to court proceedings.
The fall in racial and religious hate crime is heartening considering the toxic rhetoric being utilised by politicians in the UK, Europe and the US, which aim to stoke tension between communities.
Whilst this decline can be attributed to a number of factors, one may be Scotland’s commitment to tackling racial equality. Indeed, Scotland is currently undertaking a 15-year programme, ‘Race Equality Framework for Scotland 2016-2030’, which sets out the “Scottish Government’s approach to promoting race and equality and tackling racism and inequality between 2016 and 2030”.
The country aims to “show leadership in advancing race equality, tackling racism” as well as “addressing the barriers that prevent people from minority ethnic communities from realising their potential”. By addressing the founding problems underlying societal racism, Scotland showed initiative earlier than England to actively eliminate racism from society.
However, that is not to say that Scotland has no racism problem. Academics from Scotland last month, May 2018, published a book, titled: “No Problem here: Understanding Racism in Scotland”, noting how significant hurdles remain in tackling racism.
The book notes 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.
Mr Anas Sarwar, MSP, at the time, said: “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”.
As such, whilst the figures offer hope for the effectiveness with which the Scottish Government is tackling racism, it should not lead to complacency. There have been several significant cases of racism and Islamophobia in recent years in Scotland which should serve to remind us of the importance of continued efforts in tackling the problem.
One case was that of Connor Ward who was convicted in April 2018 by the High Court in Glasgow for planning several terror attacks against local mosques.
The High Court judge, Lord Burns, said: “The jury’s view was that you formed an intention to attack a mosque or mosques in Aberdeen and would have acted alone. You had reached the stage of identifying your targets and expressed threats against Muslims”.
Lord Burns added: “You had reached the stage of buying materials and you planned to cause serious injury at the least. Your obsession with weapons and explosives and your extreme right-wing attitudes presents serious risk to the public”.