INCIDENTS of racism in West Dunbartonshire’s schools dropped by almost half last year, according to newly-released figures.

A total of 33 racist incidents were recorded in the area’s schools in the three academic years from August 2017 until June 2020 – among at least 2,251 in Scotland as a whole.

In years 2017-18, West Dunbartonshire’s schools saw 13 incidents of racism, and again in 2018-19, 13 incidents were reported.

But In 2019-2020, that number almost halved to seven.

Glasgow City Council saw the highest number of reported incidents with 642, with reports in Edinburgh at 490.

Jatin Haria, executive director of Scottish charity, the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER), said that upgrades to the IT system used to record racist incidents in schools, SEEMiS, could have contributed to the overall rise in reports across Scotland.

But he said: “We have reason to believe that these figures are only the tip of the iceberg.

"Racist incidents in schools, and similarly hate crimes in the wider community, often go unreported.

“Crucially, more effective action needs to be taken across all of Scotland’s schools to prevent racist bullying.

"This needs to be based on strong, well-evidenced approaches that actively work to reduce prejudice.”

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP commented: “If we are to tackle the scourge of racism once and for all it will be through the better education of children and young people.

“Diversity is a strength of our communities and I believe West Dunbartonshire’s schools continue to make progress in teaching that racism of any kind is unacceptable.

“However, these figures are a reminder that the need to challenge prejudice and discrimination wherever we find it is an ongoing battle.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman, Beatrice Wishart, said: “All forms of bullying need to be challenged effectively.

“The Black Lives Matter movement has encouraged us all to think about racial injustice and to reflect on Scotland’s own history.

“By and large, Scotland is a great place to live, but learning the lessons of the past will allow us to do even better in the future.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Bullying of any form is entirely unacceptable and we need to be vigilant in challenging any racist and abusive behaviour in schools.

“Where it occurs, it must be challenged through educating children about all faiths and belief systems, ensuring they learn tolerance, respect and equality.”