HEALTH secretary Humza Yousaf and his wife are said to feel "vindicated" after an independent investigation found that some families were "treated unfairly" when seeking a nursery place for their child.

Little Scholars Day Nursery in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, has been ordered to introduce "consistent and robust" systems to manage admissions requests after a complaint brought by Mr Yousaf and his wife was upheld by the Care Inspectorate.

The couple accused the nursery of racially discriminating against their daughter and others with Asian or Muslim-sounding names, who were told there were no spaces available, while offering places to those with Scottish or white-sounding names. 

In its report on the complaint, the Care Inspectorate found that the nursery "did not promote fairness, equality and respect when offering placements".

However, the nursery has hit back, accusing the watchdog of "partisan spin" in its media statement on the case.

A spokeswoman for Little Scholars insisted that "no findings of discrimination or any issues with a lack of equality" were upheld in the official report - which is not available publicly - and is engaging its own lawyers to "demand answers" from the watchdog. 

Aamer Anwar, the solicitor for Mr Yousaf and his wife, said they felt "vindicated" by the Care Inspectorate's findings, and described the nursery's response as "very disappointing". 

He said: "My clients Nadia El-Nakla and Humza Yousaf welcome the upholding of the complaint by the independent regulators and feel vindicated by the decision.

"They are first and foremost loving parents who would do anything to protect their children.

"Humza and Nadia were left deeply upset when they believed their young daughter Amal was being discriminated against and that is why they took action they did.

"They are no different to any other parent in Scotland and simply wanted their daughter to be given equal and fair access to opportunity regardless of her race or religion.

"After taking action both Humza and Nadia were subjected to a tirade of abuse and accused of being liars, yet today the Inspectorate has concluded in their favour that ‘every child in Scotland has the right to good quality care that meets their needs and respects their rights'.

"It is now for the Nursery to prove through its practice that improvements will be made or as the Inspectorate have said they ‘will not hesitate to take further action’."

Mr Anwar pointed to specific findings of the Care Inspectorate report - shared with the Yousafs and the nursery - which stated that “on occasion the manager did not promote the aims of the service in relation to treating children and families with fairness, equality and respect when offering placements to prospective parents”.

He said the report had also found that “some families were treated unfairly when enquiries were made to the service" and "the manager agreed that communications were not always respectful”.

The Care Inspectorate has given the provider until December 12 to ensure that "consistent and robust systems are introduced to manage admission requests so that these are processed in a transparent and equitable manner".

In a summary of the case on its website, the watchdog added that communication with prospective families must be "improved to demonstrate that applicants are treated in a courteous and respectful manner", adding: "People must receive the right information".

Earlier today, a spokesman for the Care Inspectorate said: "We have upheld a complaint in relation to this matter.

"We found that the service did not promote fairness, equality and respect when offering placements.

"Every child in Scotland has the right to good quality care that meets their needs and respects their rights.

"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."

However, within hours, a spokeswoman for Little Scholars Day Nursery accused the Care Inspectorate of issuing an "extremely suspicious and highly misleading statement" with a "particularly inaccurate and partisan spin". 

She said: “Contrary to the media statement issued by the Care Inspectorate, there were no findings of discrimination or any issues with a lack of equality upheld by the investigation or contained within its official report. 

“We have therefore instructed our lawyers to demand answers from the Care Inspectorate as to how this inaccurate statement was issued.

“As a small family business, we’re always looking at ways we can improve things.  

"Whilst the Care Inspectorate found our admission procedure could be improved, this had nothing to do with discrimination or equality and within a few days of becoming aware of Mr Yousaf and Ms El-Nakla’s complaint, we reviewed and updated our system for dealing with admissions."

A spokesman for the Care Inspectorate said it had no further comment.

Mr Yousaf and his wife Nadia El-Nakla submitted a formal complaint in August after they were told there was no availability for their two-year-old daughter, Amal, but said applicants with "white Scottish-sounding names" were accepted.

At the time, Mr Yousaf said he was upset that his daughter had "suffered discrimination", adding that the couple had been given "no reasonable explanation" for the anomaly. 

Little Scholars Day Nursery has always denied discrimination and insisted at the time the case was made public by Mr Yousaf, via the Daily Record newspaper, that it welcomed children and staff from a range of backgrounds "including two Muslim families currently".

It stressed that its owners were also "of Asian heritage".

Today's statement from the nursery added that it had received "overwhelming support" from parents and the local community, adding: “We never had the slightest doubt that the complaint against our manager’s character and integrity would be rejected. She is a long-standing and highly valued member of our team, and it’s been hugely upsetting to see her face such unfair and untrue allegations. 

“I’m sure we could have quickly resolved this issue if we had been approached directly rather than using the national media, which has caused enormous and unnecessary stress to our team and our families."

Separate legal proceedings against the nursery were also launched by Mr Yousaf's wife in August after the nursery's owners declined her request to settle the dispute with a public apology and compensation paid to an anti-racism charity. 

Her solicitor, Aamer Anwar, said she had been given no "reasoned explanation" as to why children with Asian or Muslim-sounding names were repeatedly refused a place, while those with white/Scottish sounding names were accommodated.

It is alleged that legislation under the Equality Act (2010) was breached when, on three separate occasions - beginning with Nadia El-Nakla's daughter Amal Yousaf - attempts were made to secure a nursery place for a child with an Asian or Muslim-sounding name.

It is claimed that on all three occasions the applicant was told to complete a registration form, but then told no spaces were available.

Subsequently, when three attempts were made to secure a nursery place for a child with a "white-sounding", non-Muslim name, spaces were allegedly offered without the registration form being completed. 

In a response on August 23, representatives acting on behalf of the nursery rejected allegations of racial or religious discrimination. 

The case is due to be heard at Dundee Sheriff Court