THE leader of Scots Asians for Independence has called for ethnic minority voters to back the SNP.

Qasim Hanif, who is standing as a regional list candidate in the Highlands and Islands for the SNP, is appealing to those in the Asian community to get out and use their vote.

The Asian community is the largest minority in Scotland, with around 141,000 residents (3% of the population) according to the 2011 census.

The National spoke to Hanif while he was out campaigning in Pollokshields, Glasgow, one of the most diverse communities in Scotland, and one that has a large Asian population.

Asked what message he wants to get across to those in the community, Hanif said: “I would urge Asian voters to vote for the SNP, firstly we’ve got a track record of government, we’ve got a track record of delivering, it’s really important we have both votes for the SNP because we have got for the first time, the most diverse range of candidates at a Scottish candidate election.

“We’re more diverse than any other party, particularly in Glasgow. The community here has felt marginalised in the past, it’s felt under-represented, but if they use both votes SNP then they’ll have had the opportunity to vote for people like Roza Salih in Glasgow, or Michelle Campbell in the west of Scotland or Graham Campbell in the east of Scotland.”

Hanif said that voters from the Asian community historically voted for Labour, but that in recent years more voters, and particularly from the younger generation, have been switching to the SNP.

He said: “I think traditionally, the current [Scottish Labour] leader [Anas Sarwar] his father was an MP, and because he was the first Muslim MP in the UK I think that was something to look up to for the Scots Asian community.

“But I think over the past 10 to 15 years that vote has broken away, ever since the SNP has come into power and been a party of government, they’ve certainly been able to do more for the Scots Asian community.

The National:

“A lot of people have moved towards the SNP from Labour. I think most of the community now is split between the SNP and Labour, but more and more people, particularly the younger generation, the third, fourth, fifth and sixth generations that are here are more inclined towards voting for the SNP.

“The reason for that is a lot of the older generation had links to Pakistan, India, Bangladesh or whatever country in South Asia they came from, now the newer generation don’t have the same links back home so they feel totally that Scotland is their only home.

“So they don’t think that they need to vote for people that are influential in politics abroad or have links there, they’re more interested in what can be done for the people of Scotland.”

Hanif also said that SNP policies have been beneficial for many in the community, particularly free prescriptions and free tuition fees.

He explained: “The fact they don’t have to pay for university fees means that they’re not worse off coming out of university, they’re not in debt. I know some of my family members south of the border.

READ MORE: Former refugee Roza Salih proud to run for Scottish Parliament as SNP candidate

“They had debts of £30,000 or £40,000 and that’s when they started their career. These policies specifically focus on the Asian community, because the fifth, sixth and seventh generations now are now becoming professionals, lawyers, doctors, engineers, going into biochemistry, they’re going into all industries where before they were very limited to shopkeepers, businessmen.

“They may not have benefited from these policies directly but their children have, and their children’s children will as well.”