A new book has said that a prevailing view in Scotland that the nation is less racist than the rest of the UK is a “misleading fantasy”

This was reported by a number of newspapers and online, with Scotland’s supposed anti-racist attitudes labelled a “myth”.

Ferret Fact Service | Scotlands impartial fact check project

Numerous media articles reproduced a claim about Scotland’s respective rate of race-related murders.

Between 2000 and 2013 there were 1.8 race-related murders per million people, compared to 1.3 per million in the rest of the UK The Scotsman

Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it to be Mostly True.


There are a number of different measures to look at how a country treats minority groups.

The central point focused on by media reporting this issue has been Scotland’s race-related murder rate.

The Scotsman reported that “between 2000 and 2013 there were 1.8 race-related murders per million people, compared to 1.3 per million in the rest of the UK.”

This information was based on records of murders with a known or suspected racist element, compiled by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) between those dates. The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER) then cross referenced the figures with the population in each country. Within the period studied, there were ten murders in Scotland with a racial element.

Ferret Fact Service did the sums, and found that this equated to 1.87 per one million of population over the 14-year time period, based on average population estimates.

The figure for the rest of the UK was 74 murders in the time period, which works out at 1.32 per one million of population in rest of the UK.

The statistics back up the claim that Scotland’s rate of race-related murders has been higher than the rest of the UK.

However, the list produced by the IRR is not based on prosecutions, and includes some murders which are believed to have a racial element but were not prosecuted as such. This means it is not possible to know exactly how many of the homicides were definitely racially motivated.

To get a picture of Scotland’s racially motivated crime, we can look at hate crime. Scotland and the UK also produce overall hate crime statistics, broken down by issue.

The latest comparable stats produced in Scotland on racially motivated crimes are from 2013/14, when 5,520 crimes were recorded relating to racial incidents. This equates to 10.3 crimes per 10,000 population.

The 2013/14 statistics for England and Wales, show that 37,484 “race hate” crimes were recorded. This works out at 6.5 crimes per 10,000 population.

Hate crimes in the UK are defined as crimes committed against someone due to their race, sexual orientation, religion/faith, disability, or transgender/gender identity.

However, it is difficult to compare more recent statistics on the extent of hate crime between different nations due to the different ways data is collect by different institutions.

Law and Order is a devolved matter in Scotland, and hate crime is detailed in annual reports by the Procurator Fiscal in Scotland, which uses information from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service operational database.

The Crown Office records the total number of reported hate crime charges in Scotland.

In England and Wales, the Home Office measures hate crime by the total number of offences recorded by the police, “in which one or more hate crime strands were deemed to be a motivating factor”.

However, we can look at overall trends in racially motivated crime between Scotland, and England and Wales.

The latest Home Office report shows that 62,685 race hate crimes were recorded by the police in England and Wales in 2016/17 – a 27 percent increase on the previous year and the largest annual percentage increase since 2011/12.

Excluding a slight drop between 2011/12 and 2012/13, the number and percentages of race hate crimes have increased, and at a growing rate, between 2011/12 and 2016/17.

The latest Crown Office report shows that in Scotland, 3,349 racial crime charges were reported in 2016/17 – a 10 per cent decrease on the previous year.

Racial crime charges have seen a downward trend since their peak of 4,547 in 2011/12, and the 2016/17 total “is the lowest since 2003/04”, according to the Crown Office report.

It is also important to note that a number of bodies, including the Scottish Centre for Crime and Research, have found that hate crime is under-reported, so true figures for such incidents are likely to be significantly higher.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: Mostly True

The statistics reported in the media this week on racially motivated murders appear to be broadly accurate. However, the figures include some incidents with a suspected racist element that has not be proven, so it is not possible to say that they are all explicitly racially motivated. Hate crime statistics are difficult to compare between the UK nations, but such incidents appear to be decreasing in Scotland and increasing in the rest of the UK.

Mostly True

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, working to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Email us at factcheck@theferret.scot or join our community forum.

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