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Ukrainian refugees could arrive in Scotland this weekend – Nicola Sturgeon

The First Minister said she is willing to house a refugee herself, if deemed appropriate.

16 March 2022

Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war in their homeland could arrive in Scotland this weekend, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister also said she is “willing to step up” and open her own home to a refugee, if this is deemed to be necessary and appropriate.

However she added that someone escaping the conflict in Ukraine may not want to “come and live with the First Minister with all the scrutiny that might come with that”.

With cities in Ukraine having come under attack from Russian forces for three weeks now, Ms Sturgeon branded Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” and said she hopes he will be held accountable for his actions.

As talks take place between Russia and Ukraine aimed at resolving the conflict, Ms Sturgeon said: “We’re all desperately hoping the peace talks will reach a positive conclusion and bring the war to an end.

“But it is hard to see that and keep that sense of hope while Vladimir Putin, as well as sitting round the negotiating table, is flattening Ukrainian cities, killing Ukrainian men, women and children, attacking a maternity hospital last week.

“Vladimir Putin is a war criminal and should be seen as such and I hope in the fullness of time will be held to account as such.”

She said people in Scotland are “very, very keen” to offer support to Ukrainians, and she stressed the need to “harness that as much as possible”.

The First Minister has already said Scotland could welcome 3,000 refugees from Ukraine as “an immediate step” before taking in “at least a proportionate share” of those people coming to the UK.

A “super sponsor” scheme put forward by the devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland aims to get Ukrainians to these countries quicker, by providing them with temporary accommodation while a more permanent place is found for them.

Speaking on a visit to the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC) headquarters in Glasgow, Ms Sturgeon stressed that when people arrive in Scotland is dependent on the UK Government “as it is the UK Government that has the ability to grant visas and allow entry to the country”.

But she added: “What we are seeking to achieve and certainly planning for here in Scotland is for people to start arriving here as early as this weekend.

“If we are able to get the super sponsor proposal, which the UK Government have given agreement in principle to, if we can get that launched to run in parallel with the first phase of the wider UK scheme, that would allow people to start arriving here from the weekend.”

Asked if she would host a refugee, Ms Sturgeon said would “do that if that is necessary”.

She added: “I’m not going to ask other people to do things I wouldn’t be prepared to do myself.”

She stressed that “everybody’s circumstances are different”, adding: “I don’t think we should get into a position of making people feel bad if they are not in a position to offer accommodation.”

Speaking about potentially taking someone in herself, she said: “In my case I am willing to do that if that is necessary and if that was thought appropriate.

“For somebody coming from Ukraine it may be that they wouldn’t want to come and live with the First Minister with all the scrutiny that might come with that.

“But certainly if that was something that was necessary and considered to be appropriate, I am certainly willing to step up and do whatever I can.”

Ms Sturgeon also announced more than £1 million of funding for the SRC to allow it to recruit additional staff ahead of an increase in requests for support.

Ukraine Advice Scotland, which is run by Scottish charity JustRight Scotland, will also receive Scottish Government cash to help it continue to provide free and confidential legal advice for those displaced by the war in Ukraine.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Scotland is ready to play its part to offer safety and sanctuary to those forced to leave their homes because of Russia’s brutal invasion, and it is heartening to see preparations for increased support, advice and information already being put in place.

“We are determined to do everything in our power to give them the warmest welcome possible when people do start to arrive and we will need organisations like SRC and JustRight Scotland, as well as the support of the people of Scotland, to do just that.”

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