Salmond ally quits Islamic group after accounting gaps found

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A CLOSE political ally of Alex Salmond has resigned as the chief executive of the Scottish Islamic Foundation as auditors uncovered major gaps in the body's accounts.

Osama Saeed, an SNP candidate in the forthcoming election, has stepped down from his role in the foundation after accountants said they were "unable to determine whether adequate accounting records have been kept".

Records filed at Companies House revealed that the foundation had accrued debts of 4,804 in its first year of operation, despite being in receipt of Scottish Government grant funding.

It was given 400,000 by ministers to fund its work promoting community harmony in Scotland. Half of that sum was allocated for a large Islamic festival that was subsequently cancelled, despite expenses being run up of more than 70,000.

The foundation was forced to repay 128,500 to the government amid allegations of SNP cronyism. Mr Saeed, 29, is a former aide of the First Minister and will stand for the party in Glasgow Central at the general election.

The findings prompted criticism from political opponents.

David McLetchie, the Conservative chief whip, said the development had a "bad smell" surrounding it. He said: "Something seems not quite right and the SNP needs to be open and honest about all its dealings with the SIF. The SNP has thrown hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money at Osama Saeed and we have a right to know where it has gone."

The SNP would not comment on the SIF accounts, but Mr Salmond said: "The story is nonsense. The reason Osama is standing down from the Islamic Foundation is because he is an SNP candidate. It has absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter of the reports. Everybody in politics knows that, because he has said for a long time that he would concentrate on his position as a parliamentary candidate."