Published: 18/11/2008 00:00 - Updated: 25/11/2011 15:57

Massive rise in racist attacks

Racist graffiti which appeared in Fort Augustus.
Racist graffiti which appeared in Fort Augustus.

The rise has prompted the force to invest in a new online "hate" crime reporting system set to go live in the new year which will enable incidents of racism, homophobia and religious conflict to be flagged up to officers anonymously.Inverness area had more than twice as many racist incidents last year as Ross and Cromarty, which reported the second highest number in the Highlands. Cases in the Highland Capital increased from 37 in 2006-07 to 64 in 2007-08. The majority of incidents took place in streets, whilst reports were also made of racism at schools, sporting venues and medical facilities. Inverness South councillor Jim Crawford believes a combination of lack of education and publicity of the SNP's pro-independence stance may be fuelling anti-English feeling. "Racism is dirty, no matter who is doing it," said the Independent Members Group councillor, who is originally from Glasgow. "You find when nationalism in any country increases, this happens. Any form of people coming in means jobs become more restricted and locals resent people taking up employment. "The Scots, on the whole, are probably the most tolerant race in the world, so I would think this is a minority of people who maybe have the wrong idea about nationalism." But Highland Council's London-born leader, Michael Foxley, does not see any link to the SNP and feels the situation was worse 20 years ago, when he was physically threatened and sworn at for being English. "People have to differentiate between really offensive and violent racism and a throw-away comment which should be taken with a sense of humour," said the Liberal Democrat group leader, who was raised in Derbyshire and moved to the Highlands 35 years ago. "People make throw-away comments to me every couple of days, sometimes they are a bit near the bone, but I wouldn't dream of making a complaint about it." The authority's SNP group leader, John Finnie, insisted there was no place for racism in society. Northern Constabulary chief constable Ian Latimer said each racist incident was given equal priority, regardless of nationality, pointing out the force's detection rate for racist crimes was currently more than 90 per cent. A police spokesman added that the rise suggested more people had the confidence to come forward and report racist incidents. "We treat crimes of this nature extremely seriously and would urge people who feel they have been the victim to report it to us and the matter will be thoroughly investigated," he said. The figures reveal that the majority of racist offenders are Scottish, and other non-British victims include Pakistani and mixed race individuals. Most of the victims are men aged between 26 and 40 years old, whilst the majority of the perpetrators are also male, with a large proportion between 12 and 21 years old. Zosia Wierzbowicz-Fraser, chairwoman of the Inverness Polish Association, is aware of cases of Poles being verbally abused and in some cases physically attacked. "It is disappointing, but I'm beginning to realise that is perhaps the reality of the situation," she said. andrew.dixon@inverness-courier.co.uk

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