THE idea that the Brexit vote showed Scotland was more open and tolerant than England is a “misleading fantasy” that masks the country’s racism problem, MSPs are being warned.

The authors of a new academic book looking at “Scottish exceptionalism” will present their findings to Holyrood’s Cross-Party Group on Tackling Islamophobia tomorrow.

‘No Problem Here: Understanding Racism in Scotland’ says the Remain majority north of the border on Brexit had given the exceptionalism myth a “new lease of life”.

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The vote is routinely cited as evidence Scotland is inherently more welcoming to migrants.

However the book warns against such self-flattery and says a better Scotland “will only be built by confronting the evil of racism rather than pretending it does not exist”.

Editor and author Neil Davidson, a sociology lecturer at Glasgow University specialising in Scottish nationalism, said there were three reasons for the idea of less racism in Scotland.

Anti-Irish prejudice was classed as sectarianism rather than racism, while a relatively small ethnic minority population in Scotland (4 per cent) mean the problem of racism is less conspicuous than elsewhere in the UK.

“Finally, the movements for devolution and independence have involved the idea that Scotland is 'culturally' different from England, and that part of this difference involves the Scots being more 'welcoming', 'tolerant' and so on,” he said.

“These are misleading fantasies, which ignore the historical experience of Irish Catholics and the contemporary experience of Muslims, Roma and other BAME [Black, Asian and minority ethnic] groups.”

Fellow author Carol Young, senior policy officer for the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights, added: “There’s a perception that Scotland has less of a problem with racism than other areas of the UK, perhaps best summed up by the phrase ‘we’re all Jock Tamson’s bairns.’ But regardless of popular opinion, the statistics suggest otherwise.”

Scottish Government figures show racial crime is the commonly reported hate crime.

In 2016-17 there were 3349 charges, the lowest total since 2003-04 but still 64 a week.

Sexual orientation aggravated crime is now the second most common type of hate crime, with the charges increasing by 5 per cent last year to 1,075.

While the number of religiously aggravated charges was up 12 per cent to 719.

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The book also highlights how BAME job applicants in Scotland’s public sector are appointed far less frequently than their white counterparts.

A recent report for the race relations thinktank the Runnymede Trust also suggested that, while Scotland's politicians were very positive about race, the rhetoric of equality outshone an "all too uncomfortable reality".

It said: "Unemployment and underemployment remain critical issues for Scotland’s ethnic minority communities, [where] poverty falls disproportionately."

Labour MSP Anas Sarwar, chair of the cross-party group, said: “Scotland is an open and diverse country, but we should never allow our national pride to blind us to the fact that good and bad people live everywhere. In recent years we have seen the rise of Scottish exceptionalism - the idea that somehow just because we are Scottish and live in Scotland, that we’re less intolerant than our neighbours.

“It is not talking Scotland down to expose this myth. We cannot hope to eradicate everyday sexism and homophobia, everyday racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, unless we acknowledge that it exists in our workplaces, university and college campuses and playgrounds across the country.

“Our task is to make the unconscious bias conscious, so that people can challenge themselves and then as a country we can aim to defeat prejudice in the long-term.”

SNP MSP Ivan McKee, deputy convener of the group, said: “We have never shied away from the fact that Scotland is no more immune from Islamophobia and racism than anywhere else and that this serious problem must be tackled head-on.

“We need to keep standing up against racism in all its forms across Scotland."

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Scottish Conservative equalities spokeswoman Annie Wells said: "Scotland has just as many problems with racism as England does. Of course, in a bid to boost its separation cause, the SNP likes to pretend this isn’t the case. But the truth is, that’s a head-in-the-sand approach which breeds complacency and resentment.”

Labour communities spokersperson Monica Lennon added: “It is clear more needs to be done to tackle the many ways racism permeates Scottish society. We cannot rest on our laurels.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said racism, Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry were completely unacceptable and ministers were determined to work with the cross-party group.

"We are resolved to do everything that it takes to ensure that Scotland is a place where there is zero tolerance of racism in any form. Scotland’s diversity is our strength and we value and appreciate our relationships with our diverse faith communities.”