By a Newsnet reporter
Media claims of an increase in anti-English racist attacks in Scotland have been described as “irresponsible and wrong” by the Scottish government.
The criticism follows publication of new figures last week which showed an increase in racist attacks in Scotland under the category “white British”. The figures were reported by sections of the Scottish media as evidence that anti-English racism was on the increase.
However analysis of the figures has revealed that attacks against ‘white English’ actually fell in the last year in all police force areas which were able to provide a breakdown of the statistics. The revelation has led to the Scottish government angrily denouncing the media coverage.
The statistics, which cover six of Scotland's eight police force areas, have emerged after the Scottish Government undertook further detailed analysis of the racist incident statistics which were released last week – and which led to some misleading and incorrect media interpretations of the data.
This further analysis shows that, for the six forces for which a breakdown is available, the number of racist incidents recorded by the police against people categorised white English victims fell by 17 per cent in 2011-12.
Meanwhile, racism against Scottish white victims increased by a quarter during the same period.
The analysis excludes Grampian and Strathclyde, as due to differences in recording systems these forces were unable to provide data giving a more detailed breakdown.
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill said:
"All racism is abhorrent whoever the victims are and it will not be tolerated anywhere in Scotland. No community or group should be subject to discrimination and abuse because of their ethnicity, nationality or beliefs.
"This further new analysis shows that, where these more detailed statistics are available, racist attacks against white English people in Scotland are going down, and have decreased by 17 percent last year. That decrease is to be welcomed, but there will be no let up in our efforts to drive down the number of racist incidents across the board.
"I encourage anyone subjected to a racist attack to report it to the police in the confidence that their complaint will be taken extremely seriously. We are working tirelessly to tackle all forms of racism and discrimination. Tough enforcement through record numbers of police officers on our streets, together with community engagement and education, can and will have an impact. Together we can make a difference and ensure that modern Scotland is a tolerant and welcoming society for everyone."
The initial report of a ten per cent increase in overall racist attacks included an increase in the ‘white British’ category of 23 per cent.
The new statistics led to headlines in several newspapers suggesting the rise was evidence of anti-English sentiment in Scotland. The headline in the Daily Record read: ‘MSPs demand action is taken after figures reveal anti-English racism is on the rise in Scotland’ whilst the Herald claimed there was a ‘Fear anti-English racism on rise’.
The media reports were seized on by Unionist politicians with Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie saying: “We cannot allow anti-English rhetoric to creep into society and the SNP Government must do all it can to combat this.
“While racism against some ethnic groups is falling, it is still far too prevalent in Scottish society.
“This includes racist abuse directed towards the English, which cannot be tolerated.”
The claims were also reported by BBC Scotland with the issue featuring on the Call Kaye Radio Phone in with host Kaye Adams claiming that “anti-English sentiment” was “up fifty per cent apparently over the last seven years” and linking the rise to politics.
The programme featured several callers making allegations of anti-English abuse with claims that the SNP were the cause. Others claimed that supporters of Scottish independence “used” anti-English sentiment as an excuse.
The North East of Scotland was compared with Bavaria 1932, in a clear reference to the rise of Nazism, with the SNP again being blamed for anti-English "bullying".
A spokesperson for Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill added:
“It was irresponsible and wrong of certain media outlets to portray a rise in racist incidents against white people as an increase in anti-English discrimination when the original statistics release did not support that claim – and as this further analysis shows such attacks have actually gone down.
“Any racist incident is unacceptable, against any individual or group, and will not be tolerated. Politicians and the media have a serious duty of care to report and portray these figures in an accurate and responsible way.”
[Newsnet Scotland is currently on a festive break. There will be no scheduled daily news updates in the main news area - however from time to time, if a member of the team is available, they may draft an article on a story they feel is particularly important.]