THE Muslim population in Scotland is set to double within the next decade, academics have claimed, prompting renewed calls for a bespoke Islamic school.

Researchers from universities in Edinburgh and Glasgow said community services should be honed to better serve the needs of Scotland's older Muslims and children as well those from other religious backgrounds.

In Scotland, there is a relatively high number of Muslim children under 15 and a growing number of older people, the academics said.

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Dr Khadijah Elshayyal, from Edinburgh University, who wrote a report called Scottish Muslims in Numbers, said Islamic populations are expected to rise as a result of birth rates and immigration.

"Although the Muslim population is predominantly youthful it is fast becoming ageing in terms of the over-60 age bracket which is growing at a quite rapid rate and the challenge that presents in terms of services provision and in terms of community development and sensitivity in delivering services to the elderly Muslim population is an interesting one in Britain and in Scotland," she said.

Providing a state-funded Muslim school in Scotland would mean Islam achieving parity with other religions, she added.

"At the moment, there is no state-funded Muslim school in Scotland, although there is a strong tradition of state funding for Roman Catholic schools, as well as three state-funded Episcopalian schools and one state-funded Jewish school," said Dr Elshayyal.

She also said that particularly in Glasgow and Dundee there is an opportunity for the Scottish Government to "demonstrate its commitment to parity by taking steps towards funding a Muslim school".

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Her research based on the 2011 census shows more than a third of Muslim men as self employed compared with about 16 per cent of men in the overall population.

The conference was held at the Scottish Parliament, also attended by Professor Hugh Goddard of Edinburgh University's Alwaleed Centre of Islamic Studies and Professor Nasar Meer, of Strathclyde University.

It heard claimed that well educated Muslims, predominantly of South Asian or Middle Eastern origin, are being turned down for jobs because of their race and religion and that this should be probed.

Dr Elshayyal said: "I wonder whether people choosing the self employed route isn't just down to entrepreneurship but because they feel that is the easier option and they feel shut out of other options. I think that is an area that is worth looking into."

Researchers said 38 per cent of Muslims were educated to degree level or above compared to the UK average of 27 per cent.

Professor Nasar Meer said Muslims who "broadly have comparable levels of education are just not getting employed, and it is not sustainable".

"I think once you've invested in your family and they have gone to university and they have the same qualifications then they should expect the same life chances."

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Professor Goddard, representing author Dr Stefano Bonino who could not make the event, said that "it wouldn't be completely implausible" if the Muslim population was to double in ten years.

"So we might be up to 150,000 (by 2027), but that would still be three per cent, so these things need to be kept in proportion," he said.

Christina McKelvie, MSP, who is chair of the equalities and human rights committee and who chaired the event, said: "The important part of this is to take forward and to monitor and to keep in touch with this work.

"Certainly from a committee's point of view we are very keen to hear about that because there are inequalities there.

"We can change that, we can make Scotland a better place for everybody."