Comment: We need to tread with great caution

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Scotland has a long and proud tradition of tolerance and welcoming visitors.

Nowhere is that more true than in cosmopolitan ­Edinburgh, where almost a third of the population now come from outside Scotland.

That is one of the city’s great strengths, a key part of what makes it so successful and such a vibrant place to live.

Any reports of racism or homophobia will always be a cause for concern. Bigotry is corrosive and can ruin lives.

But we need to tread with great caution when interpreting today’s statistics on racist and homophobic incidents in the city’s primary and nursery schools.

It would be easy to use them to paint a picture of playgrounds rife with bigotry – but that would be misleading.

Firstly, while more than 400 incidents is certainly a large number, it only equates to two or three a year on average in each school.

Then, you have to consider the age of the children involved, and how youngsters behave in primary school.

They can be unkind and call each other names at times. The names they use often focus on ­another child’s appearance – their hair colour, their weight, the ­colour of their skin.

Sometimes the words they use might be the same as those used by bigoted adults. And that is more likely if they hear offensive ­language used at home or ­elsewhere outside school. But that does not mean the child using them is racist, or homophobic, or even ­understands their meaning.

What is vitally important is that children are challenged when they use such offensive terms and are taught right from wrong.

That is clearly happening in Edinburgh schools with so many incidents being logged and dealt with across the city.

We can be greatly reassured that our schools are tackling bigotry and upholding the best of Scottish traditions.