UK Government indicates support ‘in principle’ for Scotland to become refugee ‘super sponsor’

Refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine could arrive in Scotland “very soon”, Nicola Sturgeon has said, after the UK Government gave its backing in principle to the First Minister’s “super sponsor” proposal.

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs at Holyrood that the UK Government had indicated its support “in principle” for the initiative.

She said this was a “positive move”, pledging to update the parliament further on the issue on Wednesday.

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.

And she welcomed the “outstanding” response from the public to a new programme which will allow people to open their homes to those fleeing the conflict.

The UK Government’s Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme will allow both people and organisations to give Ukrainians fleeing the war a safe place to stay.

Those offering a place to stay will receive a tax-free monthly payment of £350, but will need to offer refugees a home for a minimum period of six months.

Speaking in Holyrood on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said the “response of the public in offering support has been outstanding” – with more than 100,000 people across the UK having registered so far.

To help people get here faster, both Ms Sturgeon and her Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford said at the weekend that their administrations were willing to become “super sponsors” for refugees – a move which could see people put up in temporary accommodation before being placed in more permanent accommodation.

Ms Sturgeon explained the proposal had been developed because “under the UK scheme though – with the exception of people who already know someone seeking refuge – it may be some time before most of those offering help will be able to actually welcome someone from Ukraine”.

She stated: “The Scottish Government’s ‘super sponsor’ proposal is intended to short-circuit this and allow Ukrainians to get here and be supported more quickly.

“I am pleased to advise that the UK Government has now indicated support for this proposal in principle, and has committed to working with us towards its immediate launch alongside the wider UK scheme.”

She added: “This is a positive development and I hope – assuming we can agree details – that, as a start, it will allow Scotland to welcome 3,000 Ukrainians to Scotland very soon.”

The First Minister said a fuller update would be given to Holyrood on Wednesday.

Her comments came as more than 40 countryside estates said they could help by providing accommodation and employment for refugees.

Dee Ward, vice chair at Scottish Land and Estates, said: “Estates in Scotland are very keen to help in any way they can to those fleeing the devastation in Ukraine.”

He added: “As these estates are rural businesses, many are in the fortunate position of being able to offer not just accommodation but also employment opportunities for refugees arriving here.

“We have no doubt that as well as estates helping those coming to stay here, there will be many Ukrainian people with experience and talent in sectors including farming, food production and hospitality that can be of real value to our rural communities.

“We are under no illusion how difficult it will be for Ukrainians coming to stay here, especially in the short term, but we want to work with the Scottish and UK Governments to provide opportunities for individuals and families wherever we can.

“We know that refugees will require care and support to adjust to life here but we believe our rural areas and businesses can play a part in the collective effort that will be required in the coming months.”

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