A Scottish Conservative party member says his party’s engagement with minority communities has been 'poor' but believes they are 'making up for lost time'.

Naveed Asghar is the Deputy Chair of the Glasgow Conservative and Unionist Association as well as the Chair of the Conservative Muslim Forum Scotland.

The 45-year-old, who has a background in business, admits to being 'pleasantly surprised' when he introduces himself as a Tory at community events. “Back in the day Labour was the only option in town,” he says.

“That was due to the work and standing of Mohammad Sarwar [former MP]. Once Labour imploded, you saw a shift towards the SNP.

“Having Nicola Sturgeon represent the most diverse constituency in the country [Glasgow Southside] has been a significant factor in the party’s popularity, especially amongst BAME groups.

"Locals have access and visibility to one of the country’s leading political figures on their doorstep. Her clever use of social media has also made her popular amongst the younger generation.

“When I’ve attended community events, people have generally been receptive. They’re glad that they’ve someone from their background representing another point of view. For too long the only options have been Labour or SNP. I passionately believe that the values of the Conservative Party align perfectly with ethnic communities.”

During council elections in May last year the Scottish Tories fielded a record number of 17 ethnic minority candidates, three of which were elected as councillors.

At the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, they have two MSPs in Pam Gosal and Sandesh Gulhane. Asghar concedes that the Partygate scandal under Boris Johnson and Liz Truss’ disastrous reign as prime minister were 'self-inflicted wounds' which made his party a 'hard sell'.

He goes on to add that some are deterred from voting for the party or becoming members as they associate the Conservatives with racism and hostility towards immigrants.

“Yeah, there are those who will raise such opinions,” he continues. “But I highlight the diverse Cabinet under Boris Johnson. I highlight the fact that we’ve had two female prime ministers and now for the first time a British Asian prime minister.

“Which other political party in the UK can claim such diversity? Here in Scotland, we’ve Pam and Sandesh in Holyrood who’ve been given shadow positions within our party. They’re not there as a box ticking exercise.”

He is particularly scathing of SNP MP Anum Qaisar, who after Rishi Sunak entered 10 Downing Street, took to Twitter to state that 'Just because you share the same characteristics as someone, does not mean you’ll support that community'. She later deleted the tweet.

Pam Gosal, at First Minister’s Questions, pointed out to Nicola Sturgeon that Qaisar chose “to attack” the former chancellor over his race and suggested that he’s the “wrong type of Asian.” She went on to ask the first minister if she would “condemn such hate filled rhetoric?”

Ms Sturgeon responded by stating that Qaisar’s comments were mischaracterised. Not surprisingly Asghar is “delighted” at last month’s UK Supreme Court ruling that the Scottish Government does not have the power to hold another referendum.

He is also dismissive of the SNP using the next UK General Election as a de factor referendum. “We had a vote in 2014 and they need to respect that”, he says.

“They need to concentrate on issues that impact Scots daily. People are relying on food banks. Energy prices are high. You can’t get an appointment with a doctor. These issues must be the priority of the SNP.”

The SNP has been in power since 2007 and there is a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament. Moreover, since the Supreme Court decision several polls have shown more Scots favouring separation from the UK.

Their supporters would also argue that Brexit and the Conservative’s mini-budget under Liz Truss, are the significant factors that have contributed to the cost of living crisis.

“Rishi Sunak is a safe pair of hands and he’ll turn the economy around,” insists Asghar.

“Had it not been for Covid we would have seen some of the benefits now that we’re out of the EU. A free trade deal with India is one example. The government is working towards that.

“You’ve to remember that the SNP has full control over health and education and look at the mess they’ve created. When it comes to gender reforms, then only the Conservatives have stood up to them.

“I’m not under any illusion especially regarding attracting more ethnic minorities to our party.

"Both Labour and SNP have more foot soldiers on the ground but we’re now on the pitch, so to speak. We’ve a presence and it’s up to my colleagues and I to build upon that.”