* 2011 census figures will not be available until later this year.
Unfortunately this is confirmed by what people told us during our Being Jewish in Scotland project: "There is strong hidden hatred and racism in Scotland, and I live in a place where being different or somehow other than local people is not acceptable." As a result people told us "I am afraid to admit to my Jewish background nowadays unless I know the company very well."
However, the picture may not be as bleak as these figures seem to show. First, the figures collected by the CST for the same period show a decrease from 20 incidents in 2010-11 to 10 in 2011-12. That may in part be because the Government’s figures relate to charges, not incidents, and just as the SDL rally was a single incident that gave rise to 57 charges, so, for example, antisemitic comments posted on Facebook under the heading “Welcome to Israel, only kidding you’re in Giffnock” resulted in 5 charges. It is also possible that the apparent increase relates to better reporting by victims, or because the police are more proactive, so that the perpetrators of antisemitic incidents can be brought to court even when there is no specific victim (such as for comments on social media), or when the victim is not Jewish.
On the other hand, the population figures for each faith community are still those from the 2001 census, since the relevant 2011 census data will not be published until later this year. If, however, as expected, the new figures reveal that the Muslim population has risen while Jewish numbers have fallen, the difference between the rates of religious hatred directed against the two religions is in fact even greater than the table shows.
Despite these concerns, however, we very much welcome the seriousness with which the Scottish Government is treating this state of affairs. We received a phone call from Roseanna Cunningham, the Community Safety Minister, as soon as the figures were published, and the First Minister also arranged an urgent meeting at which he reiterated his backing for a zero tolerance approach to hate crime in general. He pointed out that Scots Law is breaking new ground by making the expression of hatred on the internet a crime irrespective of whether the host is in Scotland, and that, as more police resources are directed to this, he would expect he figures to rise. He said he was proud that Scotland is becoming a better place to live, and drew an analogy with banning smoking and drinking in public places: “Enforcement of the law does not itself change society, but it sets the norms of acceptable behaviour”. He also pledged Scottish Government support for “education for demystification”.
So Scotland as a whole is by no means hostile to Jewish people, but there is a trend in both attitude and action that is undeniable. That needs to be acknowledged and challenged more openly by Government, the media, the churches, the trades unions, and others. We are still waiting for the Church of Scotland and the STUC to return our calls.