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Thursday, 19 May 2011

Scotland: hate crime figures rise to highest in five years

Religious and racist bigots will face zero intolerance, warn country's first minister and solicitor general

One of Scotland's most senior prosecutors has said there will be "zero tolerance" of religious and racist bigots after the latest hate crime figures showed a 10% increase in charges for sectarianism.

Frank Mulholland QC, the solicitor general, said religious bigotry was being tackled by an "extremely robust" prosecution policy after the number of cases reported to prosecutors increased to nearly 700 last year, the highest level in five years.

The latest statistics, which also showed that charges of racism reported to prosecutors fell by 3.6% to 4,165, follows the dramatic escalation in sectarian attacks and disputes in recent months centred on Glasgow's Celtic and Rangers football clubs.

Two men were arrested last week for explosives offences after allegedly being involved in a parcel bombing campaign against Celtic manager Neil Lennon and other prominent Catholics, including Lennon's lawyer, and an Irish republican group.

Rangers and Celtic fans are being prosecuted for alleged bigotry and racist offences on the internet and at football matches.

Earlier this week it emerged that the former Rangers' director and prominent lawyer Donald Findlay QC was sent a knife in the post.

Alex Salmond, speaking in the Scottish parliament as he was confirmed as first minister of Scotland, said the country should be proud of its reputation for hospitality and religious and racial tolerance, not for bigotry.

Clearly shaken by the damage caused to his party's message that Scotland is inclusive and multi-ethnic, he told the parliament that being Scottish included those Catholics who fled famines in Ireland.

This item continues at The Guardian