Second former Sturgeon ally alleges SNP grassroots biased against ethnic minorities

A SECOND former ally of Nicola Sturgeon has claimed the grassroots of the SNP is prejudiced against ethnic monitories.

Adil Bhatti, a former convenor of the Scots Asians for Independence group, said there was “racism” among the party’s rank and file.

He also accused the party leadership of tokenism by promoting weak ethnic minority candidates, citing the late MSP Bashir Ahmad as an example.

Bhatti said he once told Alex Salmond many people thought the main criterion for Asians being promoted in the SNP was the ability “to roast a good chicken leg” for him.

Although he said Salmond was untainted by prejudice, Bhatti said the activist base was very different: “The racism element is there. The grassroots workers of the SNP – had they not been a racist they would not be a nationalist. Racism is the basis of nationalism.”

Bhatti said it was striking that Scots Asians for Independence (SAFI), set up 20 years ago to woo voters from Labour, was still not formally affiliated to the SNP, denying it a seat on the party’s National Executive Committee.

Affiliation has been granted to Young Scots for Independence, the SNP trade union group, Federation of Student Nationalists and Association of Nationalist Councillors.

Bhatti, 68, a former secretary of the SNP’s Pollokshields branch, said he also saw bias before the 2012 council election, when “none of the indigenous members of the SNP voted for Asian candidates” in some Glasgow wards.

He said he told Sturgeon but she “totally ignored the situation”.

Bhatti’s comments echo those of his friend and ex Sturgeon ally Muhammad Shoaib, who last week told the Sunday Herald he experienced bias in the SNP before his recent defection to Labour.

Shoaib claimed SNP activists wanted “coconut Pakistanis, not pure Pakistani” candidates, and cited Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, who is standing in Ochil & South Perthshire in May.

The phrase “coconut Pakistani”, which he said meant “white inside”, was fiercely condemned by the SNP.

Bhatti did not repeat the phrase, and claimed Ahmed-Sheikh and SNP minister Humza Yousaf had been promoted because of blind loyalty to the party leadership.

Both were “Yes men [who] do not have any standing in the community at all”, he said.

Bhatti was originally a Labour member, but defected to the SNP after 14 years in 1997 because he “couldn’t stand” Tony Blair any longer.

In the 2010 Westminster election, Bhatti signed the nomination papers for the SNP candidate in Glasgow Central.

Now back in Labour after quitting the SNP in 2012 over its support for Nato, Bhatti recently seconded the nomination of Labour’s Anas Sarwar in the same seat.

Yousaf said: “These are more disgraceful comments from a Labour Party member, which are completely untrue.

“To attack the late Bashir Ahmad as weak is a truly appalling slur on a wonderful man who was the most sincere politician of his generation.

“The SNP is a civic party which embraces all of Scotland’s communities and ethnic diversity, which is clear for all to see.”