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Scottish Islamic lobbying group faces closure
9:10am Thursday 11th October 2012 in News
A Islamic lobbying group with close links to the SNP leadership is being wound up after spending £200,000 of taxpayers' money with almost nothing to show for it.
The Scottish Islamic Foundation (SIF), which was launched by Alex Salmond and includes an SNP minister among its former directors, is in "pre-dissolution" and six months late in filing its annual accounts at Companies House.
All but one of its board members have resigned, and its phone line and website are offline.
Launched in July 2008, the group was intended to improve community relations, raise awareness of the Muslim faith and help its young leaders.
However, it was dogged by claims of cronyism because of its many ties to the SNP.
Its first chief executive, Osama Saeed, 32, was a former aide to Mr Salmond and an SNP candidate for the Westminster seat of Glasgow Central.
Despite lacking a track record, SIF was awarded £405,000 in grants from the SNP Government within months of its creation. SIF then over-promised by announcing it would hold the country's biggest ever celebration of Islamic Culture in Glasgow in June 2009.
Mr Salmond predicted IslamFest would be "an enormous event for Glasgow and for Scotland". However, the project collapsed and SIF was forced to repay £128,000, after £72,000 had been spent on development.
SIF turned its attention to holding an Islamic financial event called Etisal, scheduled for November 2009, but that too fell through. Ultimately, half the £400,000 grant was withheld.
Glasgow list MSP Humza Yousaf, 27, was a director of SIF Ltd from May 2008 to September 2009. He was made Minister for External Affairs and International Development last month. He said: "People always criticise organisations. Some of that criticism will be fair, some misplaced."
Labour MSP Paul Martin said: "All public money must be spent wisely and the collapse of this organisation which has left little or no impact for the Scottish Muslim community raises questions about the involvement of SNP members."
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "During the financial years 2007-08 to 2010-11, we approved total funding of £405,752 to SIF.
"Due to SIF's failure to deliver its agreed outcomes during this period, £202,460 was withheld. This resulted in grant payments totalling £203,292 being made. The funding resulted in a series of events to help tackle Islamophobia in March and April 2010."
Past SIF directors did not return calls.
By Tom Gordon, The Herald