Bosses at a nursery which the Scottish Health Secretary and his wife had accused of discrimination have said they are “extremely pleased” that legal action against them has been “terminated”.
Usha Fowdar, owner of the Little Scholars Day Nursery in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, insisted there “never was any discrimination”, as she revealed that Nadia El-Nakla had dropped her legal action.
But she hit out at Humza Yousaf and his wife – who is an SNP councillor in Dundee – saying they had “colluded in a half-baked sting operation” against the nursery and had then “mounted a vicious and cynical campaign against us in the national media”.
Ms Fowdar said: “What sort of people do that?”
Mr Yousaf spoke out against the nursery in August 2021, after the family were refused a place there for their young daughter.
He alleged that while they were told there were “no available spaces” for their daughter Amal, then aged two, a white friend was told days later that there were places available for her two-year-old son.
Nursery owner Ms Fowdar said they had been vindicated after Ms El-Nakla dropped “baseless” legal action against the nursery.
But she said it was ” upsetting to have spent almost 18 months and tens of thousands of pounds defending our small nursery against their false claims”.
Ms Fowdar said: “Whilst we were 100% prepared to see Ms El-Nakla in court, we are extremely pleased that this baseless legal action has been terminated.
“It bears repeating that, despite some extremely misleading headlines and spurious allegations, the Care Inspectorate identified administrative processes for improvement which had nothing to do with discrimination, because there never was any discrimination.
“Any attempt to twist this fact should be called out for what it is.”
The nursery owner continued: “Ms El-Nakla has, very sensibly, opted to drop her legal action in the face of our determination to defend ourselves and our hard-working employees.
“While I’m pleased our employees will be spared the stress of appearing as witnesses, in one sense I’m also disappointed, as the court case would have been extremely revealing and I’m utterly confident we would have prevailed.
“Despite this vindication, it has been deeply upsetting to have spent almost 18 months and tens of thousands of pounds defending our small nursery against their false claims.
“It beggars belief that, rather than pick up the phone to quickly resolve what was a simple misunderstanding, they colluded in a half-baked sting operation and then mounted a vicious and cynical campaign against us in the national media.”
In November 2021 the Care Inspectorate ordered the business to introduce measures so applications “are processed in a transparent and equitable manner” and to prove it is “being well-led and managed”.
A spokesman for the Care Inspectorate said at the time that “the service did not promote fairness, equality and respect when offering placements”.
A statement jointly agreed by Mr Yousaf and his wife, and by the nursery, made clear that the changes put forward by the Care Inspectorate had been “implemented in full”.
Solicitor Aamer Anwar, who had acted for the couple, said that ending the action had been a “tough decision” but said that as parents they “believe it’s the right one”.
Mr Anwar stated: “Nadia and Humza, first and foremost, are loving parents who like any others would do anything to protect their children.
“They only ever wanted the nursery to accept the findings of the Independent Care Inspectorate investigation and for the nursery to make changes.
“The nursery owner’s may wish to say that they were prepared 100% to go to court, but this was a joint agreement reached and on their acknowledgement of the findings of an independent investigation and implementing the necessary changes in full.”
The lawyer continued: “The nursery by their own admission have acknowledged changes were required to make the admissions process more “transparent and equitable” and that is the very least any young child is entitled to expect from an educational establishment in Scotland, no matter who their parent is or whatever their background.
“Nadia believes that as a mother she was justified in raising this legal action – she felt deeply hurt and hopes that as a result real change will take place.
“The matter is now at end and there will be no further comment.”