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Anti-Terrorism scheme: North of Scotland referrals fall, but most are from far-right

By Ena Saracevic

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NORTH of Scotland referrals to a terrorism prevention programme have nearly halved, new figures show.

The far-right rally took place in Elgin last summer...Picture: Beth Taylor.
The far-right rally took place in Elgin last summer...Picture: Beth Taylor.

However, the region was the only one in Scotland which had far-right extremism as the top reason for referrals.

That is according to statistics about the Prevent scheme released earlier this month by Police Scotland.

Led by counter terrorism police, Prevent intervenes based on referrals from organisations including the police, local councils, schools, health services and housing associations.

The multi-agency scheme tackles all forms of violent extremism and terrorism, including far-right radicalisation.

Moray politicians welcomed the drop in referrals – but emphasised the importance of public bodies continuing to stand against extremism.

Douglas Ross, MP for Moray, said people would "understandably be concerned" about the far-right referrals.

“While the overall picture appears to be improving, constituents in Moray will understandably be concerned at the nature of the referrals to this counter-terrorism programme," Mr Ross said.

“Local police officers in Moray must also be given the resources they need to tackle these issues and ensure anyone referred to the programme can be robustly monitored.”

Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said it was “vital” public bodies stay “vigilant and pro-active” in fighting "abhorrent agendas".

He added: “It’s in all our interests that we prevent the spreading of such abhorrent agendas and Prevent allows organisations and communities to make referrals about anyone they may be concerned about.”

The latest figures released by Police Scotland cover the period from April 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023.

North of Scotland referrals fell by nearly 60 per cent, from 17 referrals in 2021-2022, to 10 in 2022-2023.

Covered within the north region are all local authorities north of Perth.

The newly published figure was less than half the 2018-2019 total of 21 referrals.

The north was the only region where most referrals came as a result of far right beliefs (50 per cent). Whereas east and west regions had "mixed unstable or unclear" ideology as the highest proportion of referrals (38 per cent and 50 per cent).

Statistics on the number of referrals from "mixed unstable or unclear" ideology or Islamic extremism in the North of Scotland were not available – because the small number could lead to individuals being identified – according to their website.

Referrals from the north of Scotland were also far more likely to lead to intervention, with the intervention rate 70 percent, compared to the east region's 39 per cent, and 53 per cent in the west.

Across Scotland, according to the figures, far-right referrals were more likely to lead to intervention than other ideologies. In 2022-2023, 59 per cent of referrals suitable for intervention came from right-wing extremism.

Mr Ross said that the far-right rally that took place in Elgin last summer had caused "outrage" in Moray and that he shared the sentiment.

“I shared the outrage among many local people that a far-right rally took place in Elgin last summer and any appropriate links must be seriously investigated,” he added.

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