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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Severin Carrell Scotland editor

Humza Yousaf’s family drops discrimination case against nursery

Humza Yousaf and his wife, Nadia El-Nakla
Humza Yousaf and his wife, Nadia El-Nakla, had accused Little Scholars day nursery of refusing to give their two-year-old daughter a place while accepting children with western-sounding names. Photograph: Paul Reid/Mirrorpix

The wife of Scotland’s health secretary has dropped legal action against a nursery the couple believed had discriminated against their daughter, allegedly because she had a Muslim-sounding name.

Nadia El-Nakla and Humza Yousaf, one of Scotland’s most prominent Muslim politicians, had accused Little Scholars day nursery in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, of refusing to give their two-year-old daughter a place while accepting children with western-sounding names.

El-Nakla launched her legal action after the Care Inspectorate found the nursery had failed to “promote fairness, equality and respect”, and instructed changes in its procedures, after a complaint from the couple in August 2021.

They said they became suspicious when their daughter was twice refused a place. El-Nakla – who works in the constituency office of Scotland’s social justice secretary, Shona Robison – and a white friend then put in fictitious applications for children with “white-sounding names” and they were offered places.

In a thread on Twitter in August 2021 setting out their allegations, which had been first reported by the Daily Record, Yousaf said: “I cannot tell you how angry I am.”

Little Scholars’ owner, Usha Fowdar, who is also of south Asian origin, was furious at the time of the complaint at the suggestion the child had been discriminated against on religious or ethnic grounds.

In a statement on Tuesday, Fowdar said: “Whilst we were 100% prepared to see Ms El-Nakla in court, we are extremely pleased that this baseless legal action has been terminated.

“It bears repeating that, despite some extremely misleading headlines and spurious allegations, the Care Inspectorate identified administrative processes for improvement which had nothing to do with discrimination, because there never was any discrimination.

“[It] beggars belief that, rather than pick up the phone to quickly resolve what was a simple misunderstanding, they colluded in a half-baked sting operation and then mounted a vicious and cynical campaign against us in the national media. What sort of people do that?”

Aamer Anwar, the couple’s lawyer, said: “The nursery has acknowledged changes were required to make the admissions process more ‘transparent and equitable’ and that is the very least any young child is entitled to expect from an educational establishment in Scotland, no matter who their parent is or whatever their background

“Nadia believes that as a mother she was justified in raising this legal action, she felt deeply hurt and hopes that as a result real change will take place.”

In November 2021, the Care Inspectorate said it had upheld the couple’s complaint. “We found that the service did not promote fairness, equality and respect when offering placements. Every child in Scotland has the right to good quality care that meets their needs and respects their rights,” it said.

“We have identified areas for improvement and we will follow up on these to check on progress. We continue to monitor this service. If we are not satisfied that the improvements required have been met, we will not hesitate to take further action.”

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