EAST Renfrewshire’s Provost has accused Tory councillors of being anti-Islamic after they called in a cabinet decision to sell a building to a group run by Muslims.

Jim Fletcher made the comments during a heated meeting about giving full ownership of Woodfarm Education Centre to Woodfarm Educational Trust.

He suggested that, if the building was being sold to a Christian group, no concerns would have been raised.

But furious Conservative councillors strongly denied the claim, insisting any issues centred on whether the deal represented ‘best value.’

Trust bosses, who have leased the site from the council since 2009, are set to pay the local authority £20,000 to take full control.

A standard security will be included to protect the facility’s future as a ‘multicultural’ centre.

Provost Fletcher, who is a Labour councillor, said the Muslim community had concerns about a future Conservative-led council but he had told them not to worry.

“Perhaps the Muslim community is right and I’m a bit naive and wrong,” he added. “I thought we were through all that in East Renfrewshire.

“The group has raised tens, probably hundreds, of thousands to improve the existing hall.

“There is concern five councillors from one particular party called it in.”

However, Tory councillor Jim Swift said he was “quite appalled” by Provost Fletcher’s claim.

He said: “There’s nothing remotely anti-Islamic. I think it’s scandalous. You should know better than that.”

Kofi Tordzro, corporate equality manager for the council, said the call-in had caused confusion in the Muslim community.

“We may be creating problems unwittingly,” he added. “We’ve got to be very, very careful of the impression that will be left when we appear to change our mind.”

Mr Tordzro said there were people in the wider community who were against the Muslim community, but added: “I don’t think anyone is accusing anyone in this room.”

Councillor Swift said the lease had offered control for the council and questioned whether the site’s £450,000 estimation, made by the district valuer, should be higher.

But senior estates surveyor John Wilson told the meeting: “Every site is valued on its merits.”

In 2012, the council extended the trust’s lease on the former Woodfarm Sports Centre, in Thornliebank, to 125 years, receiving £170,000.

Last month, cabinet members decided to rip up that agreement, allowing the trust to take full ownership.

Mr Swift and fellow Tory councillors Charlie Gilbert, Stewart Miller, Jim McLean and Gordon Wallace asked for the deal to be reviewed at Friday’s meeting of the audit and scrutiny committee.

Mr Wallace said he was “disappointed” with Provost Fletcher’s comments and insisted he brought the issue to the committee because residents had concerns.

“I don’t want an idea that this is targeted at any group,” he added.

Mr McLean also questioned why the trust had said it was struggling to raise funds for a £650,000 extension to the centre due to the lease.

Environment director Andrew Cahill said: “I believe it to be an Islamic issue, regarding Sharia Law. Some of their colleagues don’t feel comfortable contributing under these circumstances.”

Council leader Tony Buchanan, of the SNP, said the £450,000 valuation was without any restrictions on use but the standard security limited what the trust could do with the site.

The committee agreed to support the cabinet’s original decision.