Facilitators: Safety and Stability

Please click each section heading for the full text of that section. Footnotes link to the bottom of this page.

9.1 Indicators and Data Points

Crime Rates[1] 

In the 2020 Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), Grampian had 62 neighbourhoods in Scotland’s highest decile for crime: 42 in Aberdeen City, 13 in Aberdeenshire, and 7 in Moray. At the same time, 118 were in the lowest decile for crime: 30 in Aberdeen City, 67 in Aberdeenshire and 21 in Moray. Using the (very similar) 2012 data in conjunction with Census data, the highest-crime neighbourhoods were home to 42,000 people, of whom three-quarters were Scottish/British, and a quarter were ethnic minorities. The lowest-crime neighbourhoods were home to 36,000 people, of whom 93% were Scottish/British and 7% were ethnic minorities.

Domestic Abuse[2]

The Covid-19 pandemic sparked a significant rise in gender-based violence and domestic abuse across Scotland (and the rest of the world), due to restrictions on movement and an increase in social isolation. As research from RGU put it, “Covid-19 gave perpetrators more tools for control.” In response, increased funding was made available for domestic abuse charities – though many still struggle to meet demand and cope with negative impacts on staff and volunteer wellbeing. There has also been an increase in public awareness campaigns about domestic abuse and coercive control, with posters and information about local support at pharmacies, supermarkets, and even some vaccination centres. However, it is likely that many ethnic minority women are excluded from accessing support due to language issues, cultural differences and other barriers. Aberdeen Violence Against Women Partnership has produced postcards with contact information for domestic abuse support services, including helplines in other languages.

Research conducted by ACVO in 2020 stated that service provision in Aberdeen addressing domestic abuse did not cater for the intersectional needs of people with disabilities, those from ethnic minority communities, LGBTQ+ communities, men and perpetrators.

Prejudice Incidents & Hate Crimes in Grampian, 2020[3]

YearGrampian TotalAberdeen CityAberdeen shireMoray

There were 540 prejudice incidents and hate crimes reported in Grampian in 2020, which is the highest level in the past six years, by a considerable margin. Statistics and details of incidents were received from Police Scotland and GREC. As in other years, most of the incidents (522) were reported directly to Police Scotland.

Motivation for Incident

As shown in the chart, racism was the predominant motivator for hate crimes and prejudice, relating to 345 incidents (an 8% increase from 2019). The second-most prevalent motivator was sexual orientation, which related to 112 incidents (a 29% increase from 2019). Additionally, 21 incidents related to disability, 8 to religion or belief, 7 to transgender identity, 1 to gender, and 18 to multiple characteristics, all including race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, or both.

Since 2015, homophobic incidents have been increasing steadily each year, and racist incidents have fluctuated from around 250 to 350 per year. Prejudice against other characteristics has remained fairly constant during this period.

Type of Incident

Verbal abuse was the most frequently reported incident, with 399 recorded in 2020. There were 68 physical assaults, including 54 assaults with an element of verbal abuse, theft or vandalism. Unsurprisingly for 2020, ‘non-contact’ forms of abuse like online messages and threatening phone calls increased by two-thirds compared with 2019, from 38 incidents to 60. Due to under-reporting, the
actual number is likely to be much higher.

Victim Ethnicity

Where known/recorded, victims’ ethnicities for racist incidents are shown here (‘Asian’ includes British/Scottish Asian, and ‘African’ includes British/Scottish African). For UK ethnicities, it was not always noted whether victims were European or other ethnicities.

There is a slight decrease in reported incidents that target Asian people: 9%, or six cases, compared with 2019. However, a number of surveys and other reports indicate increased Covid-related prejudice towards Chinese and East Asians in particular. The discrepancy may reflect hesitance to report incidents, rather than an actual decrease. During the same period, there was a 26% increase in incidents targeting Africans, from 46 in 2019 to 58 in 2020, and incidents targeting people from the Middle East and North Africa nearly doubled, from 13 to 25.

Location Type

Where known/recorded, incidents took place in the types of locations indicated here. Incidents most frequently took place in homes, on the street, or in other public places like bars, shops or public transport. Of the 61 incidents of ‘remote’ abuse, nearly 80% of messages or phone calls were received in people’s homes. Taking this into account, it is worth noting that the proportion of incidents at home increased from 23% of total incidents in 2019 to 59% in 2020. With under-reporting, the true extent of online abuse is likely to be much higher.

9.2 Evidence from Relevant Local Research

GREC/SAREC: Experiences of Chinese, East and South-East Asian Communities during COVID-19 in Scotland (2021)[4]

At the end of 2020, the Scottish Alliance of Regional Equality Councils (SAREC) carried out a research project to better understand the experiences of Chinese, East and South-East Asian communities in Scotland during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.

In a Scotland-wide survey, 70 community members from Aberdeen took part. In both Aberdeen and across Scotland, around one third of participants had experienced prejudice or hate crime during the pandemic, or were unsure whether they had. Some who were unsure later expanded on situations such as being stared at when wearing a mask, having objects thrown at them, and being uncertain about comments from others because they did not speak English fluently. More than a quarter of Aberdeen participants knew other community members who had experienced prejudice or hate crime during the pandemic, which was lower compared to national figures. Most incidents were not reported to any organisation – in Aberdeen, only one was reported to a relevant institution.

More than half of participants saw or heard racist remarks toward East Asians during the pandemic, whether online or offline, and a quarter saw or heard these on a monthly basis or more often. Overall, 40% of participants felt less safe than before the pandemic, which was slightly lower than the 46% recorded at a national level.

Shared Futures & No Recourse North East: the Human Cost of Brexit (2021)[5]

Though participants did not directly describe experiences of hate crime and prejudice, they did highlight that their sense of hostility at an interpersonal level increased due to Brexit, as well as feeling unwelcomed and not belonging. Some community members had stopped using languages other than English outside their homes to prevent being targeted. The event included 6 speakers and 65 participants.

Aberdeenshire Council Equality Outcomes, Interim Engagement Analysis (2021)[6]

While data was not collected on participant ethnicity in the Community Survey or Citizens’ Panel Survey, both found that participants knew people in Aberdeenshire who had experienced prejudice, discrimination or harassment (66% and 39%). A smaller proportion (38% and 22%) had experienced prejudice, discrimination or harassment themselves.

In ‘Community Conversations,’ participants were generally positive about safety in Aberdeenshire, despite being aware of a few negative incidents. One New Scot had been subject to name calling but this was resolved by talking with the person who had targeted them. More broadly, participants identified a number of groups who may not feel safe because of a protected characteristic – women, the elderly, and those who live rurally. Notably, this did not include ethnic minorities.

GREC: Aberdeen Equality Outcomes Survey & Focus Groups (2020)[7]

Between 2017-2020, half of ethnic minority participants in the survey experienced racist prejudice or hate crime, including incidents of online abuse, in-person verbal abuse, inappropriate ‘jokes,’ threats, vandalism, being refused a service, being spat at, and being physically assaulted. Several participants also highlighted the significance of ‘microaggressions,’ where frequent, low-level comments and behaviours have a serious cumulative effect.

Most incidents were not reported, largely because participants felt they were not worth reporting, because they felt they would not be taken seriously, or because they did not want to “make a fuss”. 20% of participants did not know how to report an incident, and 17% felt that reporting was too complicated or difficult. Other reasons for not reporting were fear of retribution (25%), including from work colleagues or managers, discomfort speaking with the police (9%), language issues (5%). A significant number also commented that reporting multiple incidents would be impractical or demoralising – even if they were taken seriously. For example, “When small things happen so frequently you just accept it. Plus, racial gaslighting where white people tell you you’re too sensitive, it’s not racism, if you don’t like it leave, etc.”

Research from 2018 and Earlier

For a more in-depth summary of this research, including sample sizes and other details, please see How Fair Is North East Scotland 2018, available on grec.co.uk/research.

GREC ‘Life in Aberdeen’ and ‘Life in Aberdeenshire’ Surveys, 2018; GREC ‘Creating a Fairer and More Equal Aberdeen,’ 2016-17[8]

More than three-quarters of both ethnic minority and Scottish/British participants felt Aberdeen and/or their neighbourhoods were safe places to live.

9.2 Summary

The evidence above reflectsthe ongoing pervasiveness of racism and xenophobia, compared with other hate crime categories. In 2020 the number of reported prejudice and hate crime incidents in Grampian reached its highest level in the last six years. The majority of these incidents related to race/ethnicity, with a rise in incidents targeting people from Africa and the Middle East. The figures are likely to be much higher due to under-reporting, shaped by a series of complex factors. These include lack of knowledge of how to do it or finding it too difficult; fear of retribution; discomfort speaking with the Police; and language issues.

As an indicator of how widespread under-reporting could be, even though official figures showed a slight decrease in incidents targeting Asian people in 2020, evidence suggests that Covid-19 led to a higher proportion of people in Chinese and East Asian communities experiencing prejudice and hate crime, causing them to feel less safe than they did before the pandemic.

Additionally, a rise in gender-based abuse was noted during the pandemic.


  • Promote how to report hate crime and where to get support.
  • Engage with young people in schools and other settings, especially around issues of equality, human rights and gender-based violence.


[1] SIMD; Scotland’s Census, Tables LC2205SC and QS203SC.

[2] Report available online (link). Domestic abuse support services postcard (link).

[3] Detailed overview of hate crime and prejudice incidents in Grampian, 2020. Link.

[4] Report available online. Link.

[5] GREC, briefing available online. Link.

[6] Report available online (link). Citizens’ Panel report (link).

[7] There were 167 survey participants, including 73 from ethnic minority backgrounds.

[8] Summary report available online. Link.