Humza Yousaf's wife drops 'discrimination' legal case against nursery

Nursery owner welcomes move but accuses health secretary and his wife of mounting a 'vicious and cynical campaign'.

Humza Yousaf’s wife drops discrimination legal action against Little Scholars Day Nursery in Broughty Ferry STV News

The wife of health secretary Humza Yousaf has dropped legal action against a nursery the couple accused of discriminating against their daughter.

Nadia El-Nakla raised legal proceedings against Little Scholars Day Nursery in Broughty Ferry after the Care Inspectorate upheld a complaint in November 2021 that she and her husband made against the nursery.

Ms El-Nakla, who is a Dundee City councillor, was seeking £30,000 in damages over the alleged discrimination.

But lawyer Aamer Anwar, acting on behalf of Yousaf and Ms El-Nakla, confirmed to STV News on Tuesday the legal action had now been dropped following acknowledgement of the Care Inspectorate investigation.

A joint statement, agreed by Ms El-Nakla and Sword Nursery Limited, the proprietors of Little Scholars Day Nursery, said: “Following discussions, parties have agreed to bring an end to these proceedings.

“No legal expenses will be paid by either party to the other. Sword Nursery Ltd acknowledges the previous findings of the Care Inspectorate identifying administrative changes necessary to manage admission requests in a more transparent and equitable manner.

“Those changes have been implemented in full. As a result of court proceedings being halted parties can confirm there has been and will be no judicial finding against either party.”

Yousaf and Ms El-Nakla initially sought legal advice after an application for their two-year-old daughter was refused twice by Little Scholars.

The cabinet minister said an application made by a white Scottish friend for a child of the same age was accepted within 24 hours.

Meanwhile, a second application under the name “Sara Ahmad” was rejected.

Usha Fowdar, owner of Little Scholars Day Nursery, welcomed the decision to terminate legal proceedings, but was critical of the health secretary and Ms El-Nakla’s conduct.

She 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.

“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. What sort of people do that?”

The Care Inspectorate found in its investigation into the incident that Little Scholars “did not promote fairness, equality and respect when offering placements”.

In a statement released on November 3, 2021, a spokesperson for the Care Inspectorate said: “We have upheld a complaint in relation to this matter. Every child in Scotland has the right to good quality care that meets their needs and respects their rights.”

It added: “We have identified areas for improvement and we will follow up on these to check on progress. We continue to monitor this service. If we are not satisfied that the improvements required have been met, we will not hesitate to take further action.”

But the nursery instructed lawyers to “demand answers from the Care Inspectorate” over the “inaccurate” statement it issued to media about the complaint being upheld.

The full Care Inspectorate report is available to read here.

Anwar said the nursery had acknowledged they would make the admission process more “equitable” and that the matter was now at an end.

He said: “It was a tough decision, but as a mother and father they believe it’s the right one.  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 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.”

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