Alba Party kept afloat by money from Salmond, PPE firm and loan

A COMPANY that got rich selling PPE during the pandemic and is run by the husband of a convicted brothel keeper has emerged as the biggest donor to Alex Salmond’s Alba party.

Continuum (Scotland) Ltd, which made a fortune selling face masks from China to the NHS during the Covid crisis, gave the party £20,000, according to new Electoral Commission reports.

Mr Salmond was the other main donor, giving £11,769 in cash and £1400 in auction prizes in recent months.

Alba, which launched in March and failed to get any MSPs elected in May’s Holyrood election, has also relied on a loan from a firm run by a candidate.

According to the Commission, it has an outstanding loan of £33,040 from Keep Calm Media and Entertainment Ltd, which is owned by Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh and her husband.

Ms Ahmed-Sheikh, who makes and presents Mr Salmond’s weekly TV show on the Kremlin-funded RT channel, was Alba’s top-placed list candidate in Central Scotland in May.

She was the SNP MP for Ochil and South Perthshire from 2015 to 2017 before losing her seat in the snap election that also saw Mr Salmond turfed out of his Gordon constituency.

The figures, released last week but unreported until now, are the first publicly available information on the finances of the Alba party, which holds its inaugural conference this weekend.

Continuum Scotland made headlines after being identified as one of the biggest recipients of a direct NHS contract in the UK for Covid PPE.

Last year it was awarded a £47m deal for supplying Type II R face masks to NHS Wales and NHS Scotland, chartering 15 Boeing 747 jets, to fly in the order from China.

The previous year, its “micro” company accounts recorded current assets of just £52,000.

Its latest accounts, for the year to August 2020, show considerably healthier current assets of £941,000.

Continuum Scotland is jointly owned and run by Kenneth Forrest of East Dunbartonshire and Craig MacKenzie of West Dunbartonshire.

Before its face mask bonanza, Continuum specialised in Scottish memorabilia, such as golf putters, tartan and corporate whisky sets.

An offshoot, Continuum China Ltd, also shipped T-shirts to America.

In a corporate video in which he and Mr Forrest are shown scouting products and visiting factories, Mr MacKenzie says Continuum is an “archetypal middleman”, helping customers in the UK, Europe, Australia and parts of Africa source goods from China and Thailand.

In 2012, Continuum’s company secretary since 2000, Isabella Qazi, resigned from the firm days after being arrested for running an illegal sex den.

The grandmother, now 78, was the madam of a brothel in Dennistoun in Glasgow where the sex workers were in their 50s and 60s, including one called Winifred who went by the name of ‘Alexis’ and was hard of hearing.

READ MORE: Woman guilty of running brothel from city flat

Ms Qazi claimed she had merely run a massage parlour out of the ground floor flat for nine years, and insisted she knew nothing of the extra services being offered to customers.

A jury at Glasgow Sheriff Court rejected her explanation and returned a unanimous guilty verdict in 2015.

Ms Qazi avoided jail due to ill health, but was ordered to pay almost £43,000.

She wed Mr Forrest, 60, in 2016.

Continuum (Scotland) Ltd, over which Mr Forrest and Mr MacKenzie have “significant control” according to Companies House, gave Alba the £20,000 donation in mid-April.

Alba last night confirmed the donation and praised the company.

General Secretary Chris McEleny told the Herald: “Alba are a new political party that relies on the small donations of our many supporters.

“Therefore we were delighted to receive a donation from Continuum during the election campaign.

“If it wasn’t for businesses and entrepreneurs such as Continuum Scotland then the nurses on Scotland’s Covid wards and our NHS staff would’ve been left without PPE at the height of the Covid crisis last year.

“They are a real Scottish success story and we should be celebrating their contribution to helping protect the NHS during this pandemic. “

A spokesperson for Continuum Scotland said: “A donation was made to the Alba Party by Craig MacKenzie, a director at Continuum Scotland, to support the Scottish election campaign in May this year.”

The Commission database states the donation was made by Continuum Scotland Ltd, and cites its Edinburgh business address and company number.

Meanwhile Mr Salmond, whose party conference is this weekend, has attacked Nicola Sturgeon’s aversion to fossil fuels and said new North Sea fields should be approved to “mobilise the remainder of oil and gas” there.

He said “zero carbon impositions” could be attached to licences to force the companies involved to invest in renewables or decarbonise projects.

The former First Minister also said it was a “pretty sad comment” on SNP MSPs that his successor had turned to the Scottish Greens for ideas.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992