RACE crimes in Scotland have reached record levels with almost 400 incidents recorded every month.
New figures show all forms of hate crime, including those linked to race, religion, disability and sexuality, have increased.
Prosecutors said the rise was due to increased public confidence in reporting incidents to the police.
The number of charges linked to race crimes increased by eight per cent from 4178 to 4518 between 2010-11 and 2011-12, taking the total to a six-year high.
Religious crime charges increased by 29 per cent from 695 to 897, the highest number since the legislation came into force. The figures do not include 42 charges reported to the Crown linked to a new law on religious sectarian hate crime at football matches, which came into force on March 1.
Charges relating to disability increased from 48 to 68 between 2010-11 and last year, while those linked to sexual orientation increased by 46 per cent, from 447 to 652. There were 16 charges reported with an aggravation of prejudice to transgender identity, two more than the previous year.
The figures were revealed as police appealed for witnesses to an incident in East Lothian where shop workers were racially abused.
The disturbance happened at around 9.15pm on Wednesday at the Best One store on Prestonpans High Street.
A man entered the premises and began shouting racial abuse at staff whilst acting aggressively. A male customer then escorted the man from the shop and police were contacted.
Officers are now keen to hear from anyone who can assist with their enquiries.
The suspect is described as white, around 30 years old, 5ft 9in tall with a medium build and short light-brown hair. He was wearing white trainers and a grey Jack Wills hooded top with “Wills” on the back and “JW” on the front.
Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC said it was encouraging that victims of hate crimes now had the confidence to report them. He said: “We would urge the public to report all hate crimes to the police. They can have confidence that all such crimes will be investigated carefully and prosecuted robustly.
“We have a zero-tolerance approach for any such offences and will not tolerate bigotry and prejudice which can have no place in modern Scotland.”
Anyone with information on the Prestonpans incident can contact Lothian and Borders police on 0131-311 3131, or Crimestoppers in anonymity on 0800-555 111.