Council leaders in Scotland are seeking “urgent” talks with home secretary Priti Patel on what they can do to help accommodate asylum seekers.
Kelly Parry, community wellbeing spokeswoman for the local authority body Cosla, wrote to the Home Office after Patel claimed that 31 of the 32 councils north of the border had “refused to participate in the dispersal scheme” for those coming to the UK.
Ms Parry insisted that all councils in Scotland “recognise their responsibilities” in this area.
But she said: “Scottish local government has also been clear in its opposition to the current approach around asylum dispersal in general and the use of hotels specifically.
“There is no funding in place for local statutory services to support people seeking asylum and, unfortunately, the current scale of hotel use across the UK is a direct consequence of the approach that the UK Government has chosen to take.
“I have written to the home secretary seeking urgent dialogue on the role that Scottish councils can play in ensuring that asylum seekers are appropriately accommodated and supported.”
Councils in Scotland believe that there is a “workable solution” to the issues, and Ms Parry urged the UK Government to “engage in discussions with us as a matter of priority”.
She added: “All 32 councils in Scotland recognise their responsibilities to support the important role that the UK plays in providing safety to those fleeing oppression in their country of origin.
“This has manifested itself in our unanimous and ongoing support for UK resettlement programmes and, most recently, our participation in schemes for Afghan nationals and the national rota for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.”
Ms Parry spoke out after the Home Secretary told MPs in the Commons on Monday that “local authorities around the country and in particular in Scotland have not played their part in actually offering dispersal accommodation”.
Patel added that “the Scottish Government has done absolutely nothing to lift a finger in terms of actually supporting the policy of dispersal accommodation”.
SNP MP Stuart McDonald branded those comments “outrageous”.
He insisted: “Every single local authority in Scotland is anxious to play its part in resettling refugees.
“When it comes to dispersal accommodation, Glasgow has stepped up to the plate while other local authorities are withdrawing from the scheme, and they are withdrawing from the scheme quite rightly because the Home Office refuses to put in place support which requires them to do that.”
Scottish social justice secretary Shona Robison wrote to Patel in October, seeking a “meaningful discussion” on the issue along with Cosla representatives, but to date the Scottish Government said it had had no reply from the Home Secretary.
Ms Robison said she was “struggling to understand” the “extremely disappointing” remarks from Patel.
Ms Robison said the home secretary was “well aware” that the dispersal of asylum seekers to Glasgow had been paused after a Sudanese man stabbed six people before being shot dead by police at the Park Inn in June 2020.
The social justice secretary said that was “an event which is still keenly felt in the city and for which the Home Office has not commissioned an independent investigation or published the outcome of any internal investigations”.
Ms Robison went on: “Glasgow has not stopped supporting people seeking asylum and people continue to arrive in the city. Scotland’s asylum population has remained above the proportionate share.
“Scotland is a welcoming country and the Scottish Government supports the widening of asylum dispersal in principle and believes participation by local authorities should be voluntary.
“The home secretary stated in the House of Commons today that ‘the Home Office has been doing everything possible to provide local authorities with financial support and assistance but certain councils around the country still say no’.
“The Scottish Government – and I’m sure Cosla – would appreciate details of the financial support and assistance referred to, as we have not received any details of this and are clear that local authorities which accept asylum dispersal are not being funded and have not been offered appropriate funding.
“If the Home Office properly supported and funded local authorities across the UK who participate in asylum dispersal, they may find that dispersal is more attractive, to the benefit of those seeking asylum, as well as local communities.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Of the 32 local authorities in Scotland, Glasgow is the only one to come forward to participate in the dispersal scheme to accommodate asylum seekers.
“We are grateful to them but other councils need to step up and play their part too.
“Our New Plan for Immigration will fix the broken system and aims to reform the asylum system to make it fair but firm, enabling us to offer support to those most in need while returning those without a genuine right to remain in the UK.”