Nov 29 2012 By Lynn Jolly
The number of sickening hate crimes taking place in Renfrewshire has more than doubled in the space of a year, the Paisley Daily Express can reveal.
Latest statistics have lifted the lid on the scale of the bigotry problem which blights towns such as Paisley.
And, last night, Paisley MSP George Adam said it is vital that efforts are made to educate people that prejudice of any kind must not be tolerated.
He told the Express: “It is completely unacceptable that, in this day and age, people are still abusing others solely based on religious prejudice.”
Figures released by the Scottish Government show that cops in the Paisley area dealt with 33 cases involving a religious or sectarian undertone in 2011/12 – up from 16 cases the previous year.
However, the picture is brighter in neighbouring East Renfrewshire, which is one of just five local authority areas in Scotland where hate crime is not on the rise.
There were five recorded incidents in East Renfrewshire during 2011/12, which is the same number as the previous year.
The information has been made available for the second year running following a pledge by First Minister Alex Salmond that a more comprehensive analysis of data relating to Section 74 of the Criminal Justice Scotland Act 2003 would be published.
Mr Adam admits the rise in the number of cases in Renfrewshire is “concerning” but he is encouraged by the high conviction rate of people committing such crimes.
He added: “Since new legislation to tackle sectarianism came into force earlier this year, 89 per cent of the cases reported have been prosecuted, with convictions in 83 per cent of the cases that had concluded.
“However, we all know that we need to stop this problem before it even starts, so we need to educate our children about the damage hate crimes can cause, along with trying to change attitudes.
“That is why, as a government, the SNP are spending £9million over the next three years to tackle sectarianism .”
Across Scotland, the most common religious beliefs targeted in hate crimes are Catholicism and Protestantism.
There were 19 attacks on Scottish Muslims in 2011/12 – up from 15 in 2010/11.
Police officers were the most commonly targeted victims, accounting for 51 per cent of all cases.
Roseanna Cunningham, Minister for Community Safety, said: “It is completely unacceptable for people to think that offensive religious or sectarian language, or verbal or physical attacks based purely on religious prejudice, have any place in 21st century Scotland.
“While it is concerning that the number of cases has risen, I hope the increase does indicate that people feel more confident about reporting the perpetrators.
“I fully support the law enforcement agencies in doing everything in their power to punish those who wrongly believe it is acceptable to behave in such a way on the basis of their own religious prejudices but these figures show that, as well as tough enforcement, we need to tackle the root causes of religious prejudice that, sadly, is all too prevalent in parts of Scottish
“That is why we are carrying out a range of actions to eradicate sectarianism.
“We’ve brought in new legislation to give police and prosecutors additional tools in their armoury to punish those who peddle sectarian hatred, including a new offence of threatening communications, and we recently appointed a new independent expert group to help advise on current and future policies to eradicate sectarianism in Scotland.”