UPDATED: Humza Yousaf challenges nursery which refused to take his daughter

Today’s Daily Record reports that a Scottish nursery refused three separate applications for children with names that might indicate they were from a minority ethnic background while simultaneously offering places to children who appeared to be from white backgrounds. The first of those was for the two year old daughter of Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and his wife Nadia. The Record subsequently conducted its own investigation.

After being contacted in July by Nadia, the Record made its own inquiries using fake names. Under Aqsa Akhtar we asked Mill on July 7 for any afternoons free for a three-year-old daughter Amira. Five days later after prompting, on July 12, Mill replied there was “no ­availability for a three-year-old” and in contrast to the non-ethnic cases there was no offer of a registration form, a tour of the nursery or an unprompted option of a waiting list.

That evening, we emailed under the name Susan Blake about a couple of afternoons at any point for Sophie, three. The next day, Mill sent a registration form and leaflet.

She said she wanted to see where Sophie “would fit in on our ­registers” and to “let you know of availability and arrange a suitable time for a show round for you”. This was in contrast to her ­statement the day before to Sara that there was resolutely “no ­availability for a three-year-old”.

On July 19, we asked for specific availability before filling in the ­registration form. Three days later, Mills apologised for a delay as she had not been in the office but said she could “accommodate any afternoon apart from a Friday”.

Humza said on Twitter:

He and Nadia have asked  the Care Inspectorate to look into what has happened and establish if there is evidence of discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity or religion. The nursery denies this.

It got me thinking about what I would do if I had a child at that nursery. I wouldn’t feel comfortable about standing by and keeping silent. I would certainly ask the nursery what was going on and I would not be fobbed off with the really poor response they gave to the paper, which amounts to “we can’t be racist, we have Muslims here.”

I would want to see some degree of humility from the nursery, some recognition that this looked terrible, that they would be looking at the decision making processes, going back through every single application to find out if there were more examples and seriously looking at the culture of their organisation.  I would also like to hear that they would be taking advice about how to make their nursery more inclusive, because, frankly, even the best of organisations should be constantly working on this.  Even if they thought they already had this sorted, providing reassurance for current and future customers should be a priority.

If I didn’t get a satisfactory response, I’d be looking for alternative provision as I wouldn’t want to give my money to an organisation that didn’t take this seriously. It’s incumbent, I think, on every single one of us to challenge things like this wherever we find it. It’s the essence of what liberalism means to me.

The decisions we make about who we buy our goods and services from can help drive change.

I really hope that this nursery reflects on the experiences outlined in the newspaper report and shows a willingness to address the issues raised.

It can’t have been an easy decision for Humza and Nadia to take this to the press. I know from a brief and positive interaction with him on Twitter earlier this year that his mentions are full of nasty, racist bile at the best of times. I think it is important to show them a bit of solidarity.

Every single person I know from a black or ethnic minority background puts up with this sort of crap on a daily basis. One friend said just last year that when she sends job applications in in her European sounding married name she gets interviews. If she uses her own name, she doesn’t.

That this is still going on in the third decade of the 21st century is completely unacceptable. As commentator and activist Talat Yaqoob says on Twitter it’s disgraceful but not surprising.

UPDATE: It is encouraging that all Scotland’s opposition party leaders,  or in our case leadership candidate, and even the Conservative, have tweeted in support of Humza and his family. Trust me, your life is too short to read the replies.



* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Brad Barrows 2nd Aug '21 - 9:36am

    Thanks for posting this. The fact that Humza Yousaf is a leading member of the SNP should be irrelevant here – all decent people, regardless of political persuasion, should stand with his family against racism.

  • This is so depressing. I like to give the benefit of the doubt, but it seems impossible to work out how this could have happened without there being a deliberate decision by the manager to screen out those with foreign sounding names.

    It must be so demoralising knowing that you are up against all of this nonsense, and such brazen discrimination against children is shameful.

  • Matt Wardman 2nd Aug '21 - 11:31am

    The nursery is giving a robust response, including claimed provision of halal menus, and Muslim children already there.

    One to watch.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 2nd Aug '21 - 12:31pm

    @Matt: I think that the fact that they have other Muslim children there is irrelevant. We have evidence of three separate cases where applications with names associated with ethnic minorities were rejected and others accepted. That merits wider investigation at the very least.

    The nursery is doing itself no favours by being so defensive. It should acknowledge at the very least that they understand the concerns that have been raised with them, perhaps offer a meeting with the parents concerned. They should at the very least say they’ll do an audit of their processes as it is very concerning that this has happened.

  • Jason Conner 2nd Aug '21 - 12:37pm

    Is it possible there might have been a mistake and that perhaps on the day the application was made there wasn’t availability on the database or it hadn’t been updated etc. I’ve done this before when trying to cancel an appointment and could not find someone’s name on the system, We are after all human. I think any investigation should look into that as sometimes it’s easy to jump to conclusions before checking out all the facts. And I am not really into the social media shaming on twitter either. Far better to put in a complaint to the Care Inspectorate and then after the outcome make public comments if it is a clear cut case of discrimination.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 2nd Aug '21 - 12:46pm

    Very reflective piece Caron. I would immediately look to a better facility if my child were there.

    Principles are nothing if avoided in practice. Either the place is founded or run on a lie, or separate powerful decision makers are doing things in ways they like, some racist others non racist. It cannot be a mistake, that lame reason is a very feeble excuse, as is apology after being found out.

    I wonder if even my name gets me less response in applications. Certainly age does. Over fifty and you struggle to get a response even as a freelancer in certain areas of work. But this is little bothered about by even progressives.

    I believe that we have an in crowd society. Here, even the parents being of that group, in the loop, counted for nothing. It reveals that racism is potent and peculiarly tenacious, lasting way to long, for decency to be the norm we must trample on it!!

  • Matt Wardman 2nd Aug '21 - 2:04pm


    Agree with you there.

    The last thing I have heard is that an investigation by the CQC (if that is the correct body to cite) has been welcomed.

    Let’s hope it is quick and clear.

  • Brad Barrows 2nd Aug '21 - 3:50pm

    Yes, I believe the body responsible for the quality of care in Scotland is the Care Inspectorate.

  • Caron Lindsay 2nd Aug ’21 – 12:31pm……….. I think that the fact that they have other Muslim children there is irrelevant….

    Agreed! It smacks of “I can’t be racist; some of my friends are xxxxx”…

  • Jason Conner 2nd Aug '21 - 5:08pm

    But how do you know it wasn’t a mistake, do you work there? If they already have children from minority ethnic backgrounds then their procedures and processes in this case would need to be checked first before any accusations can be made. There are all forms of discrimination social status eg where you live and your standing in society as well as age, race, nationality, disability, gender identity when it comes to applications but the full facts on this decision need to be established before knee jerk reactions are made.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 2nd Aug '21 - 5:54pm

    @Jason: Three separate applications, on different days. All the same outcome. An unlikely coincidence.

  • Yes, there comes a point when we have to acknowledge that coincidence doesn’t cut it any more. It’s a bit like believing that it’s just a coincidence that US police accidentally murder black men more often than white men. There are some cases where it’s impossible to know whether the reaction would have been the same if it were a white man, but when you look at cases overall, the only explanation is systemic racism.

    It’s not just that at the exact moment an enquiry was made that there was or was not a space, because nurseries can put people onto waiting lists, and the behaviour towards the applicants was different.

    I’ve little time for Yusaf. I don’t rate him as a politician, and I accept it’s possible a nursery might not want to risk the hassle of having to deal with someone so high profile (even if they like his politics), but this really isn’t about him. Even if you disregard his first approach, the pattern is clear and has been verified by the journalists at The Record. The rebuttal from the nursery is underwhelming.

  • Before we condemn them openly, can we consider whether perhaps the nursery was trying to keep a racial balance which reflects the community around them? The same might be true in relation to gender balance. The nursery would be caring for its children if it included a good mix of cultures within its clients.
    It would also be racist in a different direction if white children were excluded in order to give black or asian children a place, but this might happen in the interests of a culture mix.

  • Matt Wardman 3rd Aug '21 - 12:14pm

    Having seen the update, a couple of further notes.

    1 – The fact of existing Muslim clients somewhat undermines any crude ‘prejudice’ allegations, rather than being ‘irrelevant’. If this is true it is now a particular, rather than a general, case.

    2 – Humza needs to explain why he used his platform – as Justice Minister – to go to Social Media with this whilst his complaint is still under investigation, and not complete. Hardly respecting ‘sub judice’. If the complaint is not upheld, he will be in a spot of bother.

    He did a similar thing with the Sturgeon Holyrood enquiry, where iirc he inappropriately gave a live commentary on Twitter during witness testimony.

    Especially as, as a result of the publicity, the nursery are now receiving abusive phone calls.

  • Definitely, further investigation is needed to clarify what has been going on. However, Jason does have a point. If we are to have true representation (that some seem to want) then the nursery will have a set number of places for children from each group – once the places for a single group are taken…

    I’ve seen similar in popular non-selective schools. To be non-selective and avoid accusations of bias, they have to be seen to be non-selective and so have strict criteria to obtain a balanced intake of pupils (both in terms of ability and neighbourhood) and that does mean not taking all those flagged as high achievers, much to the dismay of some parents.

    However, having said that, the simple use of names does seem suspect.

  • Paul Barker 3rd Aug '21 - 3:03pm

    It may be that they have a quota – so if they get “too many” muslim children they stop taking more till some leave. I can believe that people could do that & still sincerely believe that they are not being Racist.

  • Alison C 3rd Aug ’21 – 10:05am……Before we condemn them openly, can we consider whether perhaps the nursery was trying to keep a racial balance which reflects the community around them?…….

    Would you feel the same if a family were denied a house because the society were “trying to keep a racial balance which reflects the community around them”?…….

  • Brad Barrows 4th Aug '21 - 10:47am

    Interesting that some comments seem to be trying to justify racial discrimination if done for an anti racist purpose. My view is simple – rejecting an application on the basis of the race of the applicant is racist. Period.

  • Jayne mansfield 4th Aug '21 - 4:54pm

    @ Brad Burrows,
    Absolutely correct.

    I do not know the full story of what happened in this particular case, and no doubt the father of the child will insist on investigations into why his child was not considered for a place.

    On the wider issue, I am rather more shocked by the idea that quotas based on a child’s religion/ethnicity. might be deemed acceptable/ respectable.

    If one just takes one scenario.. One does not need a vivid imagination to understand the effect on a child if told that they cannot go to the same play school as their friend because the school already has enough children like them.

    Young children have no boundaries to friendships. Quotas are part of the mindset of some adults/ parents, not children.

  • Completely agree with Jayne Mansfield, and surprised that Paul Barker can even think that “a quota” is in any way acceptable in a liberal society.

  • Jason Conner 5th Aug '21 - 9:41pm

    I totally agree with Alison C and Matt Wardman. Ever heard of positive action so that all sections of the community are represented and this used to happen in education. I also don’t like the idea of shaming using social media before an investigation has been completed and the outcome made public. Perhaps the offspring of upper middle class politicians are over-represented at this nursery, we don’t know. Now they are being targeted with hate speech spreading further division.

  • Jason Conner 5th Aug ’21 – 9:41pm………….I totally agree with Alison C and Matt Wardman. Ever heard of positive action so that all sections of the community are represented and this used to happen in education………

    Strangely enough I’ve never heard of ‘positive action’ being used to keep minority groups out; there’s usually another phrase for that sort of thing.
    But, as, you agree with Alison C., what is your ‘take’ on a minority family being refused a house because of “trying to keep a racial balance which reflects the community around them”?…….

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