The economic downturn is being blamed for a rise in racist abuse directed at eastern Europeans living in the Highlands.
The upturn is fuelled by “emerging tensions due to increased competition for jobs”, according to a Northern Constabulary report on racism.
Between April 1, 2007, and March 31, this year, 15 Polish nationals complained they were racially abused, compared with 12 in the previous year and four in the preceding 12 months.
The figures are outlined in the force’s race equality scheme, which reveals there were 396 racist incidents in the Highlands in the past three years.
One-third of the racist incidents took place in Inverness, a statistic Chief Constable Ian Latimer said was “not surprising”, considering the rapid growth of the city.
Inverness has been flooded by up to 10,000 eastern Europeans, while the city’s population has doubled in 12 years.
He said: “The vast majority of people who come in are welcomed and accepted, and they make a contribution.
“Integration has gone well, but we do monitor racist incidents and hate crime. In comparison with other areas, the figures are not large, but they are always a concern.”
Despite the rise in the number of Poles being racially abused, the most frequently targeted group is classified as “other white British”, of which the bulk are English.
A race equality survey involving Highland Council, NHS Highland, Northern Constabulary, Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Natural Heritage and the University of the Highlands and Islands, also indicated anti-English sentiment.
One comment said: “People in the Highlands, especially in villages, do not want anyone apart from Scots. I receive various racist remarks, being English, even married to a local.”
Another response said: “There is sometimes anti-English feeling and sometimes poor understanding of non-Christian religions.”
Meanwhile, 55 racist incidents were lodged by on-duty police officers.
The race equality scheme report said: “There is evidence to suggest that some of the incidents are a source of repeat victimisation.
“These victims were targeted predominately during police attendance at an unrelated incident or while the offender was being detained or while in police custody.”
Between April 1, 2005, and March 31, this year, there were 147 racist incidents in Inverness, 72 in Ross and Cromarty, 52 in Caithness and Sutherland, 36 in Lochaber and Skye, 31 in Badenoch, Strathspey and Nairn, 31 in the Western Isles, 14 in Shetland and 13 in Orkney.
A three-year race equality scheme action plan, which is due to run until November 2011, aims to reduce racial discrimination in the Highlands by promoting equality and encouraging harmonious relationships.