ALEX Salmond’s Alba party has denied inspiring an attack on Humza Yousaf in the SNP leadership race after links emerged to one of those involved. 

In a joint statement, the Indian Council of Scotland and Muslim Council of the UK, today said Mr Yousaf should not become the next first minister.

Neil Lal, a 47-year-old Glasgow businessman who calls himself the chairman and president of the Indian Council, claimed the Indian community would “not feel safe” if Mr Yousaf won.

He was echoed by Wasif Ahmad, who describes himself as the chairman of the Muslim Council of the UK, who said an “incompetent” Mr Yousaf was unsuitable.

Ash Regan and Kate Forbes would be more trustworthy choices, Mr Ahmad suggested.

Their joint statement was reproduced by the influential pro-independence Wings Over Scotland website, which is close to Mr Salmond and his Alba party.

Alba general secretary Chris McEleny later confirmed he had "networked" with Mr Lal in the past.

Alba’s office in Forth Street in Pollokshields in Glasgow is owned by ASL & Co LLP, a family property business run by Mr Lal, with Mr Lal’s mother acting as Alba’s landlord.

Mr Ahmad, 52, has two businesses registered at Craig House, a suite of offices owned by the same firm, in neighbouring Darnley Street.

In 2020, Mr Ahmad applied unsuccessfully to have another of the firm’s Forth Street properties converted into a pool hall, with Mr Lal named on planning paperwork regarding its ownership.

Questions have been raised about the Indian Council and Muslim Council, neither of which is a limited company or charity. 

READ MORE: Muslim Council of the UK: The 'fake' group attacking Humza Yousaf

The Muslim Council’s only online presence appears to have been a Facebook page which went up in the early hours of the morning and has since disappeared.

Alba is sympathetic to Ms Forbes or Ms Regan winning because both oppose the Scottish Government’s controversial gender recognition reforms.

Asked about Alba’s relationship to Mr Lal, Mr McEleny said he had met him and through him his mother, which resulted in Alba leasing their office from her around a year ago.

The Herald:

Asked if Alba had put Mr Lal up to issuing the statement, Mr McEleny said: “No, he’s his own man. His mum is the landlord of our offices in Forth Street in Glasgow.

“I’ve networked with him on a couple of occasions at events, as have, I would imagine, half the Scottish political scene at the moment.”

He said he couldn’t recall if he had met Mr Ahmad of the Muslim Council of the UK.

Mr Lal, who in 2020 styled himself as the “chairman and president of the Scottish Conservative Friends of India”, denied working with Alba.

He said: “I’m not a member of any political party. 

“Regarding Alba, no one from Alba has contacted me, my family, no one.

“If someone comes to me to rent a property, or my family member, no one can grudge us to rent a property out. We’ve got to earn a living. There’s nothing wrong with that.

“At the end of the day, if Alba party do rent an office out, that is nothing.

“Other political parties can come to us. I do not engage in going to a political party to say, I’m going to say this and you say that. I’m here for my community. My community comes first.” 

Mr Lal’s Indian Council of Scotland has a history of quixotic political interventions.

Last April, the Indian Council withdrew its support for Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross for being “unapproachable” and not signing up to its Hinduphobia policy.

Mr Lal said Mr Ross was “immature” and his party was at a “historical reputational low”.

The same month the Indian Council defended Rishi Sunak’s wife for taking a dividend payment from her father’s company despite ongoing operations in Russia.

In July, Mr Lal and his Indian Council endorsed Penny Mordaunt in the Tory leadership race to replace Boris Johnson.

In December, Mr Lal was at the launch of the Together UK Foundation in London alongside Brexiteer Northern Ireland Secretary Steve Baker and former DUP leader Arlene Foster.

He said the group would “inform the public of all the facts of the advantages of the Union”, adding: “I am proud of my country, the United Kingdom and I am proud to be British”.

A week later the Indian Council awarded Rangers Football Club its “special award for Outstanding Achievement for Community Relations”.

Mr Lal declared: “Rangers Football Club is the greatest football club in Scotland.”

On February 11 this year, Mr Ahmad’s Muslim Council of the UK issued a statement describing itself as “the leading organisation for the Muslim community in the UK”.

It said it had followed in the footsteps of Mr Lal’s Indian Council of Scotland and withdrawn its support for the SNP-Green government.

In a press release which twice got his own group’s name wrong, Mr Ahmad was quoted agreeing with Mr Lal that Scotland was on the wrong path with Nicola Sturgeon.

He also attacked Mr Yousaf for making a mess of all his portfolios in Government.

Mr Ahmad said: “We will not vote for the SNP/Greens no more! We want change.”

The statement was circulated on Twitter by the husband of Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, the chair of the Alba party, who said he had been sent it directly by Mr Lal.

Naveed Ashgar, the deputy chair of the Glasgow Conservative and Unionist Association, today tweeted: “Muslim Council of the UK is a fake organisation with zero credentials. Simply brought about to advance the aims of 1 individual.”