The number of reported hate crimes in Scotland has increased over the last year, according to new figures
Racial crime remains the most commonly reported hate crime with 3,712 charges reported in 2015-16, although the is the lowest number reported since 2003-04.
There were also 581 charges with a religious aggravation reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) in 2015-16, a 3 per cent increase on 2014-15.
There were 287 charges reported to the fiscal service under section 1 of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act, an increase of 49 per cent.
In addition, 1,020 charges were reported relating to prejudice against sexual orientation, up 20 per cent on, and 201 relating to disability, an increase of 14 per cent.
While Roman Catholicism is the religion noted in more than half of religiously-aggravated charges, the number of charges where Islam was noted has almost doubled, from the 71 charges in 2014-15, to 134 charges in 2015-16
Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, said: “While I am concerned at an increase in the number of charges on last year, including the rise in alleged offences against Islam, it does indicate an improvement in the willingness of the public to report these crimes, and that should be welcomed.
“The recent appalling scenes at the Scottish Cup Final demonstrated that the unacceptable behaviour of a minority of football fans continues to be a problem.
“Recorded crime in Scotland is now at its lowest level in 41 years and the country is becoming a safer place thanks to the combined efforts of our communities and law enforcement agencies.
“Intolerance in any form is simply unacceptable and there is no place for it in 21st century Scotland.”
Chief Superintendent Barry McEwan, from Police Scotland, also said the force is committed to tackling hate crime in Scottish communities.
According to the figures, officers themselves were the victims in 41 per cent of religiously aggravated charges in 2015-16.
He said: “Today’s figures provide evidence of our efforts but they also show that we must continue to work within all our communities to encourage reporting and to get the message across that hate crime will not be tolerated.
“Anyone who feels they have been the victim of a crime which is motivated by malice or ill will because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, faith, ethnicity or disability, should report it to us. They can also use our Third Party Reporting network or our online reporting mechanism, which is available on the Force website. We take all such reports very seriously and will conduct thorough investigations to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.”