Anti-racism chief warns of ‘tinderbox Scotland’ after being racially attacked

The deputy chair of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) was racially attacked in a Scottish shopping centre – and she has claimed it was directly linked to the crisis in the Middle East.

Kay Hampton, who is also the Scottish commissioner of the CRE, was verbally assaulted in The Avenue shopping centre in Newton Mearns, East Renfrewshire, last Friday. She believes she was mistaken for a Muslim, and the attack was directly linked with the conflict in Lebanon.

Hampton told the Sunday Herald she was shopping with her daughter when she heard a man call them “pigs”. After she challenged him, the man became loud and aggressive, and followed her into a greengrocer’s. When onlookers and two security guards intervened, her attacker backed off and left the centre.

Hampton, one of the UK’s most senior race relations experts, rarely gives interviews and was initially keen to play down the incident, but she has decided to go public because she fears Scotland could become a racial and religious tinderbox.

“It was my first experience of a racial attack in 15 years of living in Glasgow, ” she said. “I was so distressed. You never know how you will respond to these things until it happens to you personally.

“I had a strong feeling it was international issues impacting on a local community – you saw it after 9/11. I think I was mistaken for a Muslim. I am concerned the crisis in the Middle East is going to have an effect on local areas.”

She added: “The face of racism is changing – it is not about black and white any more, it is much more complex than that. We assume racism happens in poor areas and is associated with young people, but this was a man in his 50s with his wife, in an affluent shopping centre. If it happened to me it can happen to anyone.”

She said she decided not to report the attack to police because she considered it more important to use the incident to raise public awareness of the pressure building on local race relations.

Sunday Herald, 30 July 2006