Ukraine: “Scotland is your home and will be for as long as you need it to be.”

On February 24th 2022 Russia launched a full scale attack on the independent nation of Ukraine. Thousands have been killed. Millions have had to flee their homes and their country. The destruction of cities, towns, villages and infrastructure has been devastating.

The Ukrainians did not capitulate. Russia transported captured children from villages they had over run to be re-educated.

Despite all of the this Ukrainians never gave up the fight. They held on.

And now the Ukrainian counter offensive is taking back territory from the Russian forces. It’s an incredible story of a people determined to retain the independence of their country.

If this counter offensive continues to succeed the might of Russia will be defeated. But the death and destruction she left in her wake will still be there. Ukrainians who sought refuge in Scotland still need help and support.

Emma Roddick SNP MSP for the Highlands & Islands has suggested that hosts taking part in the Homes for Ukraine scheme have their monthly payments increased as a result of the cost-of-living crisis and soaring energy bills. 

Emma Roddick brought up the issue during a debate in the Scottish Parliament.

Neil Gray MSP is the Scottish Government Minister with Special Responsibility for Ukrainian Refugees. He reaffirmed Scotland’s solidarity with Ukraine and to supporting Ukrainians who have fled the war.

Image credit: Scottish Parliament

In his statement to the Scottish Parliament Neil Gray said:

“We are now providing safety to more than 16,500 people—18.6 per cent of all United Kingdom arrivals and the highest rate per head of population in the four nations. More than 13,000 people have arrived through our supersponsor scheme, which demonstrates its success.

“To date, just under 35,000 visas have been issued to Ukrainians with a Scottish sponsor, many of whom have yet to travel. That compares with more than 85,500 visas that have been issued to those with an English sponsor and 8,000 for Wales. That far exceeds our initial commitment to welcome 3,000 people under the supersponsor scheme, which we introduced so that people could travel to a place of safety without needing to find a named private host.”

Scotland’s Super Sponsor Scheme was incredibly successful and as a result a solution had to be found to house the thousands of Ukrainians choosing to come to Scotland.

Neil Gray explained:

“We have taken steps to ensure that we can house as many Ukrainians as possible in safe, suitable, welcoming accommodation.

“As part of that response, we have rapidly mobilised a passenger ship in Edinburgh, which is successfully providing temporary accommodation for up to 2,200 people, with wraparound support, including from Ukrainian-speaking crew.

” The Ukrainian consul general welcomed the ship, and we have since secured a second, with capacity for a further 1,750 people. It docked in Glasgow last week; the inspection that we requested by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency is complete; any issues that were raised are being resolved; and the MCA will return to confirm that ahead of the first guests being welcomed aboard in the next few days.”

Neil Gray also thanked all those in Scotland who have opened up their homes and offered accommodation to Ukrainians. And he confirmed that:

“Ukrainians who are here through the homes for Ukraine, Ukraine family or Ukraine extension schemes and who want to study at a college or university in Scotland from this academic year will be eligible for free tuition and living cost support. For those who want access to English language classes, in addition to Scottish Government English for speakers of other languages funding through colleges, we are calling on the UK Government to make the £850 per adult ESOL tariff that is provided for Afghans and Syrians available to Ukrainians, too.”

The Scottish Government is also providing:

  • £4 million in humanitarian aid to provide humanitarian assistance in Europe, including health, water and sanitation, and shelter for those who are fleeing Ukraine.
  • medical supplies worth around £2.9 million
  • £65 million in military support

Neil Gray concluded his statement with the following:

” Shotlandiya—vash dim, i vona bude nym doty, doky vam tse bude potribno. Scotland is your home and will be for as long as you need it to be.”

Commenting after the debate, Emma Roddick said:

“When the Homes for Ukraine scheme first opened, thousands of Scots, including many in the Highlands & Islands, came forward to become hosts to those in need. It is, therefore, really important that those who opened their homes to refugees from Ukraine are suitably supported through the cost-of-living crisis so that they are able to continue providing a suitable and comfortable environment for their guests.

“I am glad to hear that the Scottish Government supports the increase of monthly payments to those involved in the scheme and I hope that this is an action the UK Government seriously and thoughtfully considers.” 

Fiona Grahame

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