MORE than one in three victims of race-related crime in Scotland are white, with experts believing an increasing number of English people to be the target.
Figures from the Scottish Government show the number of incidents with a racial element rose by 10% during the last year, the first time an increase has been recorded since 2007.
The rise appears to have been spurred by a 23% leap in the number of white British people who said they were targeted.
Combined with incidents where the victims were described as Irish or "white other" – such as Polish or Gypsy travellers – 36% of those who suffered racial abuse were white.
The research also concludes 95% of race-related offences were committed by white people, the majority of them British.
Overall, the number of racist incidents now stands at an eight- year high, with 5389 recorded since 2011. Alastair Pringle, director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland, said: "The rise in the number of white British people who have been victims of racial incidents can be attributed to a number of factors.
"We believe a number of white British victims may be English police officers serving in Scotland who have been the subject of racial abuse and assault in the course of detaining and interviewing Scottish subjects.
"There have also been reports of racial abuse of English people living and working in Scotland. Certainly more analysis needs to be carried out on the reason for the increase."
Mr Pringle added: "This is not to say the majority of Scots are racially intolerant – on the contrary. Unfortunately, it's the age-old case of the minority giving the majority a bad name."
Scottish Conservative Chief Whip John Lamont, MSP, said: "If it is an increase in anti-English behaviour from those living in Scotland, we have to treat it with the same severity we do any other racist incident."
People of Pakistani origin made up the second-largest group of victims, with more than 1300 people saying they suffered some form of racial abuse last year. The largest single group targeted was those of Asian origin – comprising Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese or other Asian – who made up 44% of all victims, a fall from last year's figure. The vast majority of offences were committed in Scotland's largest cities with 1499 incidents recorded in Glasgow, an increase of 171 on the year before. In Edinburgh, there were 1017, a rise of 173.
Racially aggravated conduct was by far the most common offence reported to the police, accounting for 3658 incidents. However, racial elements were also identified in crimes ranging from vandalism to fire- raising, violence and sexual offences. Men aged 26 to 35 are the most likely victims of racist incidents, while 40% of offences were committed by males aged 20 or younger.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "No information is published in the statistical bulletin which would allow any conclusions to be drawn relating to the combination of ethnic groups of victims and perpetrators."
Roseanna Cunningham, the Scottish Government's Minister for Community Safety, described the rise as disappointing.