Police probe 'racist messages' sent to Black Bitch pub campaigners

Police have launched a probe into “racist messages” allegedly sent to activists trying to stop the name of an historic pub being changed because its owners claim it's racially offensive.

Campaigners want to retain the name of the pub.
Campaigners want to retain the name of the pub.

Police Scotland revealed that they were treating the complaints as a “hate crime” but said investigations were at an early stage.

Campaigners opposing a bid by pub owners Greene King to rename The Black Bitch pub in Linlithgow as The Black Hound reported receiving emails containing vile racist slurs.

Locals in the West Lothian town are are furious about the move because they take pride in calling themselves “Black Bitches” and highlight the fact that the dog forms part of the former Royal Burgh’s coat of arms.

They blame the UK’s biggest pub owners for sparking the apparent rise in racial tension in the area.

Alistair Old, who is leading the campaign to retain the pub’s name, revealed he had attended a meeting between one of the complainers and constables from Police Scotland.

He said: “There’s some really ugly stuff going around in emails sent directly to people and we’re concerned as to how they’ve been tracked down, and we’re concerned about people’s safety.

“The pub owners say they’re not responsible for a rise in racial tension in Linlithgow. They say it’s just a simple name change for the pub.

“We explained our concerns to the police about what might happen if this escalates.”

He said Greene King had been in touch with the protest group recently to suggest alternative new names for the Black Bitch in an apparent attempt to be more inclusive.

He added: “We keep telling them the name is not racist and we’ve proved it’s nothing to do with race but they’re saying it’s offensive and things now seem to have kicked off.

“We’ve got 11,000 people telling them to leave the thing alone. We’ve got Martyn Day, the MP, working with us, councillors are up in arms – the whole lot. The three councillors wrote a joint letter to GK and they’re still waiting for a reply.

“There could be people potentially hurt here. We weren’t expecting the level of stuff that came back. The police were shocked by what they were reading.”

The pub was originally named after a black, female greyhound that features on the town’s heraldic crest of the former Royal Burgh and has been commemorated by a statue in Linlithgow High Street.

A Greene King spokesperson said: “We thoroughly condemn any racist abuse and our thoughts are with anyone subjected to this. We’re changing the name because we spoke to people who find it offensive and we want everyone to feel welcome in our pubs.

“For someone to use the name change as an excuse to send racist messages is abhorrent and we would support any police investigation into the matter. We’re continuing discussions locally on the new name.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: "We can confirm that officers have been made aware of an alleged hate crime in Linlithgow, which was reported on Monday, 3 January. Enquiries into the matter are at an early stage.”