First Minister: Scotland ready to welcome Ukrainian refugees

Nicola Sturgeon writes to Boris Johnson stating that Scotland stands ready to offer refuge and santuary.

Ukraine: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland ready to welcome refugees fleeing conflict STV News
Support: Hydro in Glasgow lights up with colours of the Ukraine flag.

Latest developments:

  • Boris Johnson has insisted no Nato allies are contemplating heeding Ukraine’s pleas to enforce a no-fly zone over the nation to prevent bombings from Vladimir Putin’s planes
  • In a speech in Warsaw, Johnson said Vladimir Putin had made a ‘colossal mistake’ by invading Ukraine
  • Ukrainian ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko warns that Russian invaders could try to starve civilians in major cities in a bid to win the war
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky holds conversation with US counterpart Joe Biden
  • Former deputy first minister Nick Clegg says Facebook will try to continue to operate in Russia to offer a platform for ‘counter-speech’ to the “propaganda” coming from Russian-state controlled media
  • British Gas owner Centrica says it will exit its gas supply agreements with Russian counterparts, including Gazprom
  • Athletes from Russia and Belarus banned by World Athletics

All visa requirements for Ukrainian nationals seeking refuge in the UK should be waived, Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday.

The First Minister has written to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to state that Scotland stands ready to offer refuge and sanctuary for those who may be displaced following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

She said the Scottish Government is working with the country’s 32 councils on implementing an initiative similar to the Syrian Resettlement Programme, which saw local authorities welcoming Syrian families into their communities.

The announcement came on the sixth day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has seen continued attacks on several fronts.

In her letter to the Prime Minister, Sturgeon said “It is vital that rapid, safe and legal routes be established immediately, cooperating with our international partners wherever possible.

“For those Ukrainians who were already in the UK prior to Russia’s unprovoked and illegal invasion, the UK Government announcement of temporary visa extensions and in-country visa category switching measures simply do not go far enough. Ukrainians in the UK should be offered the assurance that they will be offered protection in the UK for as long as is required, regardless of their migration status.

“In this respect it is vital that you lift No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) and any employment restrictions so that individuals can support themselves and access vital public services during this difficult time without fear of breaching the conditions of their visa.”

Johnson announced on Tuesday that more Ukrainians will be allowed to enter the UK to join family members as they flee the war zone.

The UK Government has been criticised by Tory and opposition MPs for the response to the refugee crisis, but the Prime Minister insisted the widened access would allow “very considerable numbers” of Ukrainians to come.

A new scheme will also allow individuals and organisations to sponsor Ukrainian refugees to come to the UK, but Sturgeon wrote in her letter that she is concerned the current proposals from the UK Government “are still  insufficient given the gravity of the current situation”.

The first phase of the plan had allowed people in Ukraine who had immediate family members in the UK to come and join them, but the move was criticised for being too restrictive.

Downing Street said on Tuesday that people living in the UK would now be allowed to bring in “adult parents, grandparents, children over 18 and siblings” in addition to those who had previously been allowed.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said that would widen eligibility to around 200,000 people, twice the number previously estimated.

The UN’s refugee agency says that about 660,000 people have fled Ukraine for neighbouring countries since the Russian invasion began.

Meanwhile, Johnson again rejected Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky’s calls for British forces to actively join the effort, warning it would trigger a wider war with Russia.

With the invasion of Ukraine in its sixth day, Mr Johnson visited Nato members Poland and Estonia to shore up support for the defence alliance.

But he ruled out British forces fighting in Ukraine, as he faced impassioned calls for a no-fly zone to be imposed to protect civilians as a major assault on Kyiv was feared to be nearing.

Johnson clarified that the UK is not actively supporting British nationals volunteering to help the defence of Ukraine, contradicting an earlier remark from Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

“I think for any Nato member to get involved actively in conflict with Russia is a huge step which is not being contemplated by any member,” Johnson stressed during a press conference against the backdrop of armoured vehicles, at the Tapa military base in Estonia.

“This is a time when miscalculation and misunderstanding is all too possible and it’s therefore crucial that we get that message over.

“When it comes to a no-fly zone in the skies above Ukraine we have to accept the reality that that involves shooting down Russian planes … that’s a very, very big step, it’s simply not on the agenda of any Nato country.

“We will not fight Russian forces in Ukraine,” he added. “Our reinforcements like these reinforcements here in Tapa are firmly within the borders of Nato members.”

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg warned that a vast column of “heavy Russian armour” moving towards Kyiv would bring “more death, more suffering and more civilian casualties”, as he stressed the need for heavy sanctions.