We have exceeded our initial commitment to welcome 3,000 people under the Scottish supersponsor scheme
. As a nation, Scotland is now providing safety to over 16,500 people from Ukraine, which is 18.6 per cent of all United Kingdom arrivals, and the highest number per head of population in the four nations.
Although the Scottish supersponsor scheme has been temporarily paused for new applications, the Scottish Government continues to work with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and local councils to provide safe, suitable accommodation and a wraparound support offer to displaced Ukrainians who are already in our country and to those who have been granted permission to travel here.
Has the Scottish Government set itself a target for how long an individual will be housed on the ship in Edinburgh before they will be moved into more permanent accommodation?
We want people to be out of temporary accommodation as quickly as possible, regardless of whether that is hotel accommodation, the ship that has arrived in Leith, or the ship that is being worked on in Glasgow. We want people to be in temporary accommodation for as short a period as possible and to be moved to longer-term accommodation as quickly as possible, and we want to give people the opportunity to be able to rebuild their lives in Scotland. We do not want people to be staying in short-term accommodation for any longer than is absolutely necessary.
I associate myself with comments from colleagues across the chamber about the health of Her Majesty the Queen.
The minister will be aware that Ukrainians are not the only people who are seeking refuge and asylum in Scotland. There are almost 5,000 asylum seekers in the country. Extending the concessionary travel scheme to all those asylum seekers would improve their lives immeasurably. The discussions that I have had with the Government have generally been positive, but progress has been painfully slow. Can the minister confirm whether the Government agrees that the concessionary travel scheme should be extended to all asylum seekers?
For people who are arriving from Ukraine, which is my responsibility, the concessionary travel scheme already applies—so people over 60 and young people already have access to that scheme. I have heard the representations and have met Mr Sweeney, Bob Doris, Mark Ruskell and others to discuss their proposal to extend the concessionary travel scheme. We continue to work on doing what we can to see whether there is more that can be done with the limited financial resources that we have.
First, I pay tribute to the work that the Micah Project in Troon is doing.
The Scottish Government has provided additional funding to national charities. It has committed £1.3 million to the Scottish Refugee Council and £36,000 to JustRight Scotland’s Ukraine advice service. That funding will increase the capacity to extend valuable support to arriving Ukrainians. Along with support from local authorities, that will provide local charities with the assistance that they require to support displaced people from Ukraine who are living in Scotland.
It is worth reiterating the fact that we have also provided support to local authorities to ensure that there is assistance for local organisations, too. If more needs to be done, I am happy to hear such representations and to see what more is possible.
Councils need to know how many Ukrainians are arriving so that they can provide support. However, ministers are often better informed than they are. I am often referred to Home Office data when I raise such questions; however, that does not show which local authorities will receive Ukrainians under the supersponsor scheme, or how many.
Will the Scottish Governments publish its own detailed breakdown of people who are arriving under the supersponsor scheme in the near future?
I record my thanks to Lord Richard Harrington for the work that he did, collaboratively, with the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government. We worked well together and I am sorry that he has moved on. We wait to see whether his position will be replaced in the UK Government reshuffle.
We are actively pressing the UK Government to increase funding for hosts, particularly during the cost of living crisis, when energy bills are soaring. I agree with
Richard Harrington that it is essential that the UK Government increase the “thank you” payments for hosts to £700, and I hope that the new Chancellor of the Exchequer will reflect on that as he considers future support for the Ukrainian schemes.