SNP gives more funding to ally's Islamic group

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THE SNP Government is facing more criticism from Muslim groups after ploughing a further £190,000 into an Islamic group led by one of Alex Salmond's closest allies.

The Scottish Islamic Foundation, headed by SNP parliamentary candidate Osama Saeed, received the cash last week, on top of a 210,000 sum given to the group in March.

The fresh money came from a 5m pot of funding known as the Race, Religion and Refugee Integration (RRRI) fund, which is used to support minority ethnic and faith communities in Scotland.

Scotland on Sunday revealed last month that leading Muslim figures were furious over the first cash award, claiming the SNP had given preferential treatment to the group. It then emerged that documents establishing the SIF as a company had been signed in the party's Glasgow headquarters.

Many other organisations, including at least one other Muslim group, were unsuccessful in their applications.

One senior Muslim figure who supported the SNP at the last election said last night: "The Government should be supporting many other organisations who are also vying for the Government's attention. We don't have anything against the SIF, but it isn't wise to throw so much money at this organisation. People are very upset about it."

The SIF was set up in January and was established as a company in May. Saeed is the SNP's Westminster candidate for the Glasgow Central constituency and is a former researcher for Salmond.

The decision to award the RRRI funding was made by SNP Communities Minister Stewart Maxwell. But a spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said last night that the initial assessment for the funding was made by an independent trust.

The SIF was not able to supply all the documentation which applicants for RRRI cash are asked to provide, including their most recent audited accounts and the most recent annual report.

But the Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Providing every document detailed on the RRRI application form is not a mandatory requirement of securing grant funding. Like every other one of the 33 organisations (that won funding], they provided sufficient information for the process of independent evaluation, led by officials, to take place."

Along with Saeed, the SIF is being run by several other SNP figures, including SNP researcher Humza Yousaf, MSP Bashir Ahmed and former SNP researcher Noman Tahir. The board also contains members of Saeed's family.

Following a letter from Labour MSP George Foulkes, the Auditor General is currently considering whether to investigate the funding deal.

The funding deal was also the subject of a complaint to the police from a member of the public. However, the complaint has been dismissed by Edinburgh's Procurator Fiscal.