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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)


"The shameful reality of religious hate crime"
21 November 2011
SCoJeC continually emphasises that Scotland is generally a welcoming and hospitable place for Jewish people to live – relative to England, there are fewer antisemitic incidents relative to the population, and in general they are less serious. However, recent research has suggested that this may be unduly complacent. In October, the Institute for Jewish Policy Research published a survey of Jewish students throughout the UK. Scotland was only singled out for one comment:
"Regionally, respondents in Scotland are the most likely to report having experienced some form of antisemitism-over half (52%) have witnessed and/or been subjected to antisemitism. By contrast, a third (33%) of respondents studying in London has experienced antisemitism."

More recently, an analysis by the Scottish Government of prosecutions aggravated by religious hatred has attracted a lot of comment in the media because it found that 400 charges were for behaviour directed against Catholics, but only 253 against Protestants. By comparison, only 16 charges for antisemitism looks reassuring. However, that takes no account of the relative sizes of the communities. Using the published findings of the last census a parliamentary answer gave the following figures:

size of community
number of prosecutions
charges per
10,000 members
  Church of Scotland
1 in 9,457
  Roman Catholic
1 in 2,149
1 in 2,818
1 in    465

Even although these figures need to be qualified because what was recorded was not the religion of the victim but the religion against which hostility was manifested, so that the final column is not the likelihood of an individual having been a victim, it is nonetheless concerning that the disparities are so large. That is why the community does have an interest in the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill, currently before Parliament. The second part of the Bill directly addresses the kind of abusive phone messages and e-mails that communal organisations are subjected to. But the first part matters to us too, because antisemitic abuse often features at football matches that have no connection with the community.

Minister for Community Safety, Roseanna Cunningham said: "These statistics show the shameful reality of religious hate crime in Scotland. We need a wholesale change of attitudes, and this new report provides a valuable insight into the nature and scale of religious hate crime across Scotland. Like racism, this kind of behaviour simply shouldn't be happening in a modern Scotland but sadly, it seems there are still those who think hatred on the basis of religion is acceptable."

SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski said, "These official figures are a worrying snapshot of the scale of religious hatred in Scotland today. While the absolute number of incidents remains very low, the disproportionate ratio of antisemitic incidents must give cause for concern, and we therefore welcome the commitment of Government, Law Officers, and the police to tackle all religious hatred and not just the predominant sectarianism with the same vigour.

At the same time, given that Jewish people represent less than 1% of the population of Scotland, it is likely that ignorance gives rise to suspicion and so fuels hatred, so that the support of successive Scottish Governments for our programmes to educate the wider community about Jews and Judaism is also a welcome positive contribution to promoting better relations between communities in one Scotland of many cultures."


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Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation no. SC029438