Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf launched legal action on Monday claiming a nursery discriminated against his daughter when refusing to offer her a place.
Mr Yousaf – the first Muslim member of the Scottish Cabinet – and his wife Nadia El-Nakla allege that the nursery unlawfully discriminated against them and their daughter Amal on the grounds of race and/or religion.
The Little Scholars Day Nursery, in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, which denied the allegation, was given 14 days to avoid court action.
In a series of tweets posted last week, Mr Yousaf explained how he thought there “must be a rational explanation” until his partner put in similar applications for a traditionally white name and a minority name.
“She created a profile with a White Scot name & made an application, she also asked her sister 'Sara Ahmed' to submit an application on same day. Her sister was rejected but White Scot application accepted,” the minister tweeted.
“I cannot tell you how angry I am. As a father all I want to do is protect my girls, yet aged 2 I believe my daughter has faced discrimination.”
Solicitor Aamer Anwar said the family were “subjected to direct discrimination” in breach of the Equality Act 2010.
“It is alleged that when on three separate occasions, (beginning with Nadia El-Nakla) attempts were made to secure a nursery place for a child with an Asian/Muslim name, the applicant was told to complete a registration form, and then were told no spaces were available,” Mr Anwar said.
“Following the above refusals, attempts were made to secure a nursery place for a child with a 'white-sounding', non-Muslim name. On all three separate occasions, a nursery place was offered and spaces were offered without the registration form being completed."
The family has given the nursery a two-week deadline to provide settlement proposals, a public apology and compensation to be paid to an anti-racism charity or the case will go before court.
Little Scholars told The National it regularly welcomes children and staff from a range of backgrounds.
“We have received correspondence from a solicitor acting for Mr Yousaf and Ms El-Nakla and will respond in due course,” a representative for the nursery said.
“Little Scholars is extremely proud of being open and inclusive to all and we are deeply saddened that anyone would think otherwise.
“Our owners are themselves of Asian heritage, and for more than a decade we have regularly welcomed both children and staff from a range of different religious, cultural, ethnic and racial backgrounds.”