RELIGIOUS hate crimes have increased by almost 10% in a year, new figures reveal.
In 2010/2011 There were 693 charges aggravated by religious prejudice, the highest level in four years.
Almost 60% of incidents were attacks on Catholics, with Protestants, Jews and Muslims also subject to attacks.
Strathclyde police force dealt with the majority of incidents, 79%, while the report also found a third of all incidents were related directly to football.
However fewer than 5% of incidents were related to marches and parades.
The Scottish Government report also found that in over 60% of cases, the accused had consumed alcohol prior to the offence.
Today politicians called the figures “shameful” and vowed to tackle sectarianism in Scotland.
Minister for Community Safety, Roseanna Cunningham said: “These statistics show the shameful reality of religious hate crime in Scotland. Like racism, this kind of behaviour simply shouldn’t be happening in a modernScotlandbut sadly, it seems there are still those who think hatred on the basis of religion is acceptable.
“We need a wholesale change of attitudes, and this new report provides a valuable insight into the nature and scale of religious hate crime across Scotland. It shows that charges for religious hatred are up ten per cent on last year, to the highest level in four years, and it also shows that a disproportionate number of religious hate crimes are directly linked to football, both in stadiums, on public transport and in bars.
“That is why we have made clear that we will be looking at further wide ranging actions across society, such as in schools and communities, in addition to legislation to send out a clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated any longer.
“This report supports the direction of travel we are taking. We need to eradicate sectarianism once and for all by cracking down on all forms and expressions of sectarian hatred, through a combination of education and tough enforcement.
“We must deal with sectarianism in the same way as with racism, and drink-driving. This Bill will not be the conclusive answer or the only solution, but it is the beginning of the end.
“You can either do nothing and allow the status quo which allows the mindless bigot to thrive or we can take the strong action needed now and send out a message loud and clear that this behaviour is not going to be tolerated any longer.”