Religious hate crimes on the rise in Scotland

The number of religious hate crimes in Scotland has risen by nearly 10% in a year, according to new figures.

A total of 693 such incidents were reported to the procurator fiscal in 2010/2011, compared to 632 the previous year.

The Crown Office report came as First Minister Alex Salmond warned the "parasite of sectarianism" would not be tolerated in Scotland.

The study also said racially aggravated crimes fell by just under 4% last year.

Over the last five years the number of religious hate crime charges has fluctuated between 600 and 700 in Scotland.

But last year's figure is the highest since 2006-7, when 696 charges of this nature were recorded.

More than nine out of 10 of the cases in 2010-11 led to court proceedings.

Speaking at Holyrood following his re-election as first minister, Mr Salmond said modern Scotland was "built on equality".

He added: "We will not tolerate sectarianism as a parasite in our national game of football or anywhere else in this society."

Meanwhile, the number of charges of race crime fell by almost 4% to 4,165 in 2010/2011.

The Crown Office figures also revealed the results of the first full year of a new law to tackle hate crimes.

The act put crimes against disabled or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people on the same footing as racist incidents.

A total of 448 charges were reported to the procurator fiscal which were aggravated by sexual orientation.

A further 50 charges were recorded with an aggravation of disability and 14 cases were reported with an aggravation of transgender identity.

Solicitor General Frank Mulholland QC said there was no place in modern Scotland for crimes motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity.

He said: "The high prosecution rate demonstrates that offending motivated by prejudice will not be tolerated, and that perpetrators will be dealt with robustly by Scotland's prosecutors.

"I would encourage the public to report all hate crimes to the police, and to be confident that these offences will be investigated carefully and prosecuted robustly."

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