BY ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS
In recent months, Focus on Islamism has blogged about Osama Saeed’s Scottish Islamic Foundation (SIF) (see here and here) and most recently we covered the interest that Scottish Labour MSPs have taken in the Islamist organisation and its links with the SNP. Labour’s Des McNulty MSP is now the latest to ask a series of questions about the SIF in the Scottish Parliament.
On Thursday 1st October, McNulty had the following exchange with SNP Housing and Communities Minister Alex Neil:
8. Des McNulty (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what meetings have taken place between ministers or their special advisers and Mr Osama Saeed or representatives of the Scottish-Islamic Foundation since June 2008; which ministers or special advisers were present, and what matters were discussed at each meeting. (S3O-8052)
The Minister for Housing and Communities (Alex Neil): Ministers have met Scottish-Islamic Foundation representatives on five occasions since June 2008. The meetings covered a wide range of topics such as Islamfest, policing and the Show Racism the Red Card initiative. In addition, Osama Saeed, chief executive of the Scottish-Islamic Foundation, is a member of the Scotland without nuclear weapons working group. I will write to the member with full details of the meetings and place the information in the Scottish Parliament information centre.
Des McNulty: I hope that the minister checked
and checked again the information that he has just given to the chamber and that all the face-to-face contact between ministers, their special advisers and Mr Saeed will be disclosed. If, on reflection, the minister wishes to add anything to the answer that he has given, he has the opportunity to do so now.
For what reason was the etisal event, which is sponsored by the Scottish Government and run by the Scottish-Islamic Foundation, postponed from November 2009 until March 2010? When was the decision to postpone the event taken? How much money is the Scottish Government contributing to the costs of the event, including the costs of publicising it? What contribution is being made from either governmental or non-governmental sources in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference countries and the Gulf Co-operation Council states, which include Libya and Qatar?
Alex Neil: If, once I have sent information about the five meetings to Mr McNulty, he knows of another meeting about which I do not know, I will be glad to hear the details. We have checked the records and there have been five meetings.
I understand that the etisal event, which was originally planned for November this year and has been postponed until March next year, is one of the victims of the current recession. The purpose of etisal was to act as a finance expo to bring investment, trade and technology to Scotland. I would have hoped that all members would support in principle any such event.
The event in question, Etisal, which I covered in the July issue of Standpoint, is intended to promote Islamic banking as well as trading between Scotland and countries in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Now postponed until next year, it is sponsored by the SIF and the Scottish Government. Presumably, the message of the Etisal event is that Islamic banking can provide the Scottish economy with a much needed boost – although a recent announcement by the UK’s leading Islamic bank, the Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB), of a loss of £4.1 million in the first half of 2009 suggests that Sharia compliant banking is not immune to the recession.
On the same day, McNulty lodged the following written questions in the Scottish Parliament:
S3W-27917 Des McNulty: To ask the Scottish Executive for what reason Etisal, the Government sponsored event being organised by the Scottish-Islamic Foundation, was postponed from November 2009 to March 2010.
S3W-27918 Des McNulty: To ask the Scottish Executive when the decision to postpone Etisal, the Scottish Government sponsored event being organised by the Scottish-Islamic Foundation, was taken.
S3W-27919 Des McNulty: To ask the Scottish Executive how much funding, including publicity costs, it is providing to Etisal, the Scottish Government sponsored event being organised by the Scottish-Islamic Foundation.
S3W-27920 Des McNulty: To ask the Scottish Executive what information it holds on any contribution being made by sources in the (a) Organisation of Islamic Conference and (b) Gulf Cooperation Council countries to Etisal, the Scottish Government-sponsored event being organised by the Scottish-Islamic Foundation.
S3W-27921 Des McNulty: To ask the Scottish Executive what discussions have taken place with sources in the (a) Organisation of Islamic Conference and (b) Gulf Cooperation Council countries and whether such discussions have been facilitated by Osama Saeed or the Scottish-Islamic Foundation.
It is significant that Labour MSPs have taken such an interest in the SIF’s dealings with the SNP recently, and suggests that there may be more to this relationship than Alex Salmond and the SNP wish to disclose. Suspicions arose in mid August when the SIF was forced to hand back £128,000 granted to it by the SNP for an event called Islam Fest, which never took place.