Salmond backs plans for Islamic faith school

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SCOTLAND'S first state-funded Islamic school could get the go-ahead within months after First Minister Alex Salmond declared he was "sympathetic" towards the controversial move.

Campaigners are planning to submit a detailed proposal for the faith school to Glasgow City Council within two months and officials last night confirmed they would consult on the proposal.

But former Scottish education minister Sam Galbraith condemned the move as a "retrograde step", arguing that it would be bad for the Muslim community by hindering integration.

Scotland has around 43,000 Muslims, about 18,000 of them in Glasgow. While there are more than 100 Islamic schools south of the border, both private and state-supported, Scottish Muslims have so far failed to establish a faith school and some in the community question whether it is a good idea in an age of increased ethnic and religious tension.

Scotland has more than 400 publicly funded Roman Catholic schools as well as three state-supported Scottish Episcopalian schools and a publicly funded Jewish school.

A spokesman for Salmond said: "We are very much sympathetic to the idea. The First Minister is supportive. He thinks that faith schools are a good thing and they make a great contribution to Scotland. The issue is whether there is a sustainable demand for them.

"We would expect a local authority to react positively where there is a sustainable case."

After failing in a previous campaign, a group of Muslim community leaders in Glasgow is preparing a case for at least one school, which they will present in about two months' time. They are gathering names of families who they think will want to send their children to an Islamic school.

A spokesman for the campaign said: "We're working on things right now so that we can present a strong case to the authority – to show that we are united behind this and that there are enough of us so that the case is obviously sustainable."

Glasgow City Council said it would consider any reasonable plan that parents could come up with. A spokeswoman for council leader Stephen Purcell said: "Basically, if the parents come forward with a sustainable plan, both financially and educationally, we will consult on that plan."