ALMOST half of hate crimes in Scotland last year were committed in Glasgow and Edinburgh, despite the cities having just a fifth of the country’s population.

Glasgow had the highest rate of hate crimes in 2017/18, at a rate of 30 for every 10,000 people, while in Edinburgh it wad 26, and the Scottish average was 12.

The Northern and Western Isles had the lowest rates at under 0.5 per 10,000 people.

Overall, the country’s largest two cities accounted for 48 per cent of hate crimes, while being home to 21% of its citizens.

Police Scotland’s hate crime database recorded a total of 6,736 crimes in 2017/18.

Two thirds (67%) were racist, 16% involved sexual orientation, 7% a religion, 4% a disability and 1% a transgender identity aggravator; the other 5% had multiple hate aggravators.

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The most common form of hate crime was “threatening or abusive behaviour”, involved in 45% of cases, with racially aggravated conduct involved in 23%.

Common assault accounted for 13% of hate crimes, sending indecent and menacing electronic messages for 5% and serious violent or sexual crimes for 2%.

The latest figures confirmed a stubborn level of hate crime, with offences fluctuating between 6,600 and 7,000 in recent years.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said government and law enforcement agencies would continue to tackle the problem and were determined to avoid a “culture of acceptance”.

He said: “We are committed to tackling all forms of bigotry, prejudice and discrimination.

"This report shows around two-thirds of hate crimes are race-related, underlining the importance of our ongoing efforts to tackle racism wherever it occurs.

"We all have a role to play in stamping out all forms of prejudice and ensuring Scotland is the inclusive and forward-thinking society that we want to be.

"Our message to perpetrators is clear - this kind of hatred will not be tolerated in Scotland.

"We will continue to support Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority as they work to develop more detailed information on hate crime."

The figures coincided with the launch of a new award scheme to tackle prejudice in schools.

The Inclusion and Diversity Charter Mark scheme, which has been developed by young people, will recognise schools which promote inclusion and diversity.

Supported by Action for Children, it will be piloted in Edinburgh before a nationwide roll-out.

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Pupils will be encouraged to share experiences with each other and help teach the next generation of youngsters to reject prejudice and discrimination.

Labour MSP Labour's Anas Sarwar, chair of Holyrood's Cross-Party Group on Tackling Islamophobia, attended the launch at Broughton High School in Edinburgh.

He said: “Everyday racism can be found in our classrooms and playgrounds across the country, and too many young people in Scotland face bullying and discrimination.

"Teachers play a vital role in changing this culture, but the best lessons for children often come from fellow children, building confidence and better understanding.

"This Charter Mark focuses on pupil-led education and the real-life experiences of pupils, providing support to the next generation so that together we can build a Scotland free of prejudice and discrimination."

Toqa Abdel Motalab, 16, from Edinburgh, one of the pupils who helped develop the scheme, said she felt "our voices were being heard".

Paul Carberry, director of Action for Children Scotland, added: "We believe this pupil-led award will encourage schools to further develop social justice and inclusion for Black and Minority Ethnic young people while promoting equality and anti-racist education.

"Our vision is for schools across Scotland to achieve accreditation against the Inclusion and Diversity Charter Mark for their commitment to promoting the inclusion and identity of all young people."