RESEARCHERS into a study of police stop-and-search powers, to be prepared for a Scottish ministerial group set up after the Stephen Lawrence murder, have admitted it will be flawed.

They said it was too small to answer the key questions at the heart of the issue, whether larger numbers of ethnic minorities were stopped and searched by police.

Race campaigners described the study as ''tokenistic and half-hearted''. They said it should be scrapped in favour of more comprehensive research.

The admission by the researchers, Fife-based Reid Howie Associates, came in a report which was considered at a meeting earlier this week by the steering group, headed by Jim Wallace, the justice minister.

This report describes the background to the research project and the work carried out to date.

It says the research, called for by police and others at the group's first meeting last year, will involve consultations with such as the police, young people, and community groups.

The details of stops and searches will be logged in the police divisions covering north Edinburgh, the south side of Glasgow and Dundee city centre. A total of 120 random interviews with young people in those divisions are also expected to be conducted this month.

The report lists a number of objectives outlined in the original brief, including the key question of ''the proportionate use of these powers in relation to minority ethnic and white young people''. However, it concludes that,

while a ''considerable body of data'' will be gathered, some issues will not be covered, including the crucial question of ''disproportionality''.

It describes disproportionality, in other words the claim that relatively large numbers of black and Asian people are stopped and searched, as a key issue in England. It says figures for the overall and relative size of the ethnic population are required before this can be assessed.

The report adds: ''In Scotland, currently, there is little reliable data on the absolute numbers of black and minority ethnic residents even at a Scottish level, let alone of an individual police division. For this reason, this research cannot provide a definitive view on whether disproportionality exists in Scotland.''

It also admits: ''Most significantly, this research cannot, for a number of reasons, provide a definitive view of the absolute impact of the use of stop and search on black and minority ethnic young people. This research is relatively small in scale and scope, covering three police divisions over a 10-week period.''

Aamer Anwar, a member of the steering group and spokesman for the Chhokar Family Justice Campaign, set up after an Asian waiter was killed, said they had welcomed the fact research was to be carried out, but said this was ''a tokenistic gesture and a half-hearted attempt to analyse the problem which the researchers themselves admit won't give a true picture. They should rip up the plans and start again.''

A Scottish Executive spokes-man said the research was ''an important first step in identifying whether there is a problem that needs to be nipped in the bud''. He added: ''The research is qualitative rather than quantitative.''