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Language: English / Gàidhlig

Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) [Draft]

Meeting date: Thursday, February 24, 2022

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Torness Nuclear Power Station, Portfolio Question Time, Ports, Ukraine, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time



The Presiding Officer (Alison Johnstone)

The next item of business is a debate on motion S6M-03333, in the name of Nicola Sturgeon, on solidarity with Ukraine. I invite members who wish to speak in the debate to press their request-to-speak buttons.


The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon)

Today, we woke to the horror of an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and to a reality that we all hoped had become unthinkable: a land war in Europe. Today, literally as we speak, that horror in Ukraine is intensifying.

Much discussion will rightly focus on the geopolitical impact but, as ever when so-called strongman leaders flex their muscles, it is the innocent and most vulnerable who suffer the most. At the sharp end of any conflict are men, women and children—civilians who have the right to go about their daily lives in peace but who will inevitably bear the brunt of this full-scale invasion. Many will be terrified and are fleeing. Our thoughts are with them in this darkest of hours and we must provide them with practical support, aid and refuge.

This is arguably the most serious moment that the world has faced since the end of the cold war and is one of the most dangerous since world war two. By launching this invasion of a sovereign independent nation, Vladimir Putin has committed an illegal act of aggression that has no conceivable justification. His warped rewriting of history underpinning his imperialist delusions is no justification. His claims about the actions of Ukraine’s Government are false and offer no justification. Notwithstanding different opinions here and elsewhere about the role and objectives of NATO, his assertions about its so-called eastern expansion and threat to Russian security lack credibility. They are an excuse, not a reason, and they are certainly not a justification.

Putin’s motives are simpler: imperialist expansion, coupled with a fear of allowing democracy to flourish on his borders in case it finds its way into Russia. If those are his motives, no one should doubt his ultimate intention. He wants to end Ukraine’s very existence as an independent democratic state. This is, therefore, a moment of genuine peril, first and foremost for the people of Ukraine, but also for the world. It is a time for all democracies and all countries that believe in the rule of international law to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and to stand against Russian aggression.

That is why I believe that it is important for Parliament today to condemn Russia’s actions unreservedly, to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine and to support Ukrainian sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. That is the right thing for all countries to do, but I know that, in expressing our solidarity with Ukraine, many of us are mindful of the strong ties between Scotland and Ukraine. As one example, our capital city, Edinburgh, is twinned with Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. There are several thousand Ukrainian citizens living here in Scotland, and they are valued and welcome members of our communities. For all of them, especially those who have family and friends still in Ukraine, this will be an especially anxious time. The Scottish Government will do all that we can to support them, and we will work with the Foreign Office to support inquiries from any in Scotland who may be worried about loved ones in Ukraine.

We are also working with the United Kingdom Government and the other devolved Governments to ensure that support is available if needed to Ukrainian British nationals who are returning to the UK. Yesterday, I discussed the concerns of Ukrainians in Scotland with both the acting consul general and with Linda Allison, the chair of the Ukrainian community here. I made clear to both of them the Scottish Government’s condemnation of Russian actions and our support for, and solidarity with, the people of Ukraine.

In addition, I made it clear that Scotland stands with those members of the international community that have opposed Russian aggression by imposing sanctions. After all, expressions of solidarity with Ukraine, welcome though they are, are not sufficient in this moment of great peril. Firm and decisive action is needed, in particular because this week’s atrocities by Russia are not isolated but part of a pattern of this Russian regime’s aggression, which includes the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the Salisbury poisonings in 2018.

I refer to the Russian regime deliberately, because it is important to be clear that the crimes—I also use that word deliberately—that are now being committed by Putin should be laid at his door and at the doors of his kleptocratic cronies. They should not be laid at the door of the people of Russia wholesale, nor should they be laid at the door of Russians or people of Russian background who are now living here in Scotland.

However, those crimes cannot and must not go unanswered. We cannot have a situation—as arguably happened with Crimea—in which the world expresses shock and outrage for a period of time but then allows the Russian regime to consolidate its gains with relatively few consequences and go on to plan further aggression. If we are to deter Putin this time, sanctions must hit him and his allies hard, with severe and lasting consequences. He must pay a heavy price for aggression.

I therefore welcome the European Union’s intention to impose a package of what it calls “massive and targeted sanctions”, the detail of which we should learn tonight. The UK will, sadly, not now be in the room when those sanctions are being discussed and decided but, as the Estonian Prime Minister said this morning,

“The most effective response to Russia’s aggression is unity,”

so I hope that we will see co-ordinated action across the international community.

We welcome the sanctions that the UK Government announced on Tuesday but, as I said at the time, those measures against just five banks and three individuals were too limited. In my view, there is no case at all to delay tough action now. The experience of recent years has shown that softer action does not encourage better behaviour on the part of Putin; it simply emboldens him in his aggressions.

The UK Government must therefore announce further and much more significant steps as quickly as possible, and I am hopeful that it will do so. We must also address the fact—it is a fact—that the City of London is awash with Russian money. The UK Government’s response must therefore include a ruthless and comprehensive attack on the wealth and assets of the Russian regime and its backers. That demands a serious and systematic approach, and the Scottish Government will strongly support further moves by the UK Government in that direction.

The Scottish Government will also work with the UK Government and other partners, including the UK National Cyber Security Centre, in staying vigilant against any direct threats that Russia might present to Scotland, for example through cyberattacks. The National Cyber Security Centre is closely monitoring the threat to the UK as a priority and, in recent weeks, in addition to receiving briefings from the national security adviser, I have participated in four-nations discussions on how we deal with a range of domestic impacts that we might experience.

The crisis is fundamentally about Russian aggression against Ukraine but there is also a far wider international and moral dimension to it. Putin wants to dismember—essentially, to obliterate—Ukraine as an independent democratic nation. If he is allowed to get away with his aggression, the international community will have failed and that failure will give encouragement to other countries and other so-called strongman leaders who consider acts of aggression in future.

Therefore, the crisis is a test for all nations. It is a test of how prepared we are to support not just the principle but the reality of an international order based on law, rules and peaceful coexistence. It is a test of how prepared we are to protect freedom, peace and democracy. All of us must speak out against Putin’s aggression and stand up for the values of democracy, sovereignty, territorial integrity and peace. We must do so first and foremost as the best chance of deterring aggression against Ukraine and standing in solidarity with its people but we must do it also for the sake of other countries across the world and for the sake of our world.

We must not accept this as a moment that bloody and prolonged war returns to our continent. Today, Parliament can add Scotland’s voice to all of those that are now standing up for peace, freedom and democracy. We can add this Parliament’s and Scotland’s voice to the voice of all those who stand with the people of Ukraine in this darkest of hours. For that reason, with a sombre sense but with pride, I will move the motion in my name and I urge all members to support it with one voice.

I move,

That the Parliament offers its unqualified support for Ukrainian sovereignty, democracy, independence and territorial integrity; condemns unreservedly Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty by recognising the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, and expresses its concern at the disturbing reports of Russian forces beginning a further invasion of Ukraine’s territory, in flagrant violation of international law; acknowledges the response to date of the international community in applying sanctions against the Russian regime and calls on it to redouble such efforts to discourage Russia from further aggression; further acknowledges the limited sanctions announced by the UK Prime Minister and urges that these should go further as soon as possible, with severe sanctions imposed upon Putin’s regime, his oligarch backers and their assets globally; supports efforts to deter Russia from further aggression and efforts to require Russia to reverse its illegal and provocative actions; records its concern about the grave threat to the safety and security of Ukrainian citizens; stands in solidarity with the people, Government and Parliament of Ukraine, and Scotland’s Ukrainian community, and stands ready to support them in any way Scotland can.


Douglas Ross (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I confirm that the Scottish Conservatives will support the Government motion, because it is essential that we come together to condemn Russian aggression.

The news that we woke up to this morning—that Russian troops had entered Ukraine, that cruise missiles and military aircraft had attacked its major cities and that military and civilian lives had already been lost—can only be described as utterly devastating. It was utterly devastating for the people of Ukraine who find themselves the victims of an irredentist dictatorship and its warped view of the world, and utterly devastating for the rest of our continent, as the peace in Europe that we have all taken for granted was shattered by the most serious conflict for decades.

There must now be the swiftest and strongest response from the United Kingdom and every nation that values democracy and international law to make the action as costly as possible for Russia and especially for the regime that has ordered the invasion. That is why I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement that the United Kingdom will introduce a massive package of further economic sanctions to hobble the Russian economy. As our debate closes at 5 o’clock tonight, the Prime Minister will make a statement in the UK Parliament setting that out in more detail. We need a similar response from all our allies and partners, and I welcome those that have already been made.

Beyond that, the United Kingdom Government has provided substantial assistance to Ukraine throughout the crisis. That includes training for more than 21,000 members of its armed forces; a security assistance package to increase Ukraine’s ability to defend itself, including antitank missiles; £1.7 billion of financial support to help to develop and expand the Ukrainian navy; £88 million to support the Ukrainian economy and reduce its reliance on Russian gas; and £40 million to fight corruption and strengthen the Ukrainian judiciary.

However, it is clear that, despite those actions, Putin is determined to continue the conflict regardless of the cost to the people of Ukraine and, indeed, the people of Russia. Therefore, we must realise that we no longer live in a world in which we can assume rationality and reason in our international affairs. For years, we believed that conventional warfare between two sovereign countries would never happen again, because it was unthinkable that anyone could actually want war. However, as we have seen today, that belief in a rules-based international system, in which countries negotiate disputes rather than resort to conflict, is no longer an assumption that we can rely on. The world has become a more dangerous place than it was yesterday, and we view with trepidation what tomorrow might bring.

That is why it is important that we stand with our NATO allies, particularly those in eastern Europe. Countries such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are former parts of the Soviet Union that the Russian regime still considers part of its sphere of influence. In other countries, such as Poland and Romania, which border Ukraine, the citizens are now living in fear of an escalation of the conflict and further Russian aggression. The UK has already made major commitments to the security of those states, but it is important that we now redouble those efforts and reaffirm our article 5 commitment that an attack on any NATO member is an attack on all members.

Here in the UK, we must also make every effort to tackle Russian disinformation and close loopholes in our financial system that allow Russian oligarchs and state-owned companies to circumnavigate sanctions.

Other dictatorships across the world will be studying our response to the crisis and testing our resolve. We need to strengthen our military and take difficult decisions economically to isolate rogue states such as Russia, because if we and the rest of the democratic world do not defend our rules-based international system and do not champion liberal values, no one else will.

However, it is important today that we do not give any impression that we have written off the Ukrainian people. There can be no hint that we or the rest of the western world have abandoned them to Russian aggression, because at the heart of this conflict is the right of a democratic country to choose its destiny.

Although we were all shocked by the violence today, we must remember that that conflict has been going on for years. As the First Minister said, in 2014, after the Euromaidan protests removed a corrupt pro-Kremlin regime, Russia annexed Crimea and supported separatists in the Donbas region in their war with Ukraine. That war alone has claimed 14,000 lives to date and devastated a region that was previously the industrial heartland of the country.

Now the Ukrainian people face the darkest day in their history for a generation, and we must continue to offer them our full and unwavering support in any way that we can as the conflict continues. That must mean continued supplies and equipment to help them to defend themselves and their country. It must also mean humanitarian aid and shelter for those people who are already fleeing or attempting to flee the cities. The 20,000 Ukrainian nationals who call the UK their home, and might have family and friends at risk because of this truly awful war, should know that they are also in all our thoughts and prayers.

When I woke this morning, like many, I felt shocked by what I was seeing on the news: horrific scenes of cruise missiles hitting apartment blocks, tanks rolling over border posts and thousands fleeing Kyiv in their cars. Those images, which belong in the past and should have been unbelievable in the 21st century, have become reality again today. I also felt a deep sadness that the peace in Europe, which was won by the blood of our grandparents and the generations that went before us, has broken once more. Our children will grow up in a less secure and safe world.

The people of Ukraine are having their freedom to choose their national destiny taken away by a foreign autocratic dictatorship. Many of them will lose their lives in the conflict or carry the physical and emotional scars with them for ever.

We on the Conservative benches join the rest of this Parliament and the UK Parliament in condemning in the strongest possible terms Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. It is important that the whole UK is united in the action that we will have to take in the coming days, weeks and months to stand up to this renewed era of aggressive expansionism, irredentism and great power politics, and absolutely ensure that liberalism, democracy and international law triumph once again. We stand with the people of Ukraine and we support the motion in the name of the First Minister.


Anas Sarwar (Glasgow) (Lab)

Earlier this afternoon, the leaders of all Scotland’s political parties sent a unified and unambiguous message: Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine is unprovoked and unjustifiable. Our solidarity with the Ukrainian people is unconditional. We must stand ready to support Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian aggression.

Today is a dark today, and it is important that we pause to recognise the scale of what has happened. A hard-won and fragile peace in Europe has been shattered by a despotic Russian regime that has made clear that it will disregard the values that one would expect of the international system in order to advance its imperial ambitions.

There are no excuses for Putin’s actions. What Putin’s regime fears is a democratic Ukraine. He fears a neighbour that makes decisions free from his corrupting influence. The Russian President is attempting to dismember Ukraine, and he must fail.

The international community must be united in its condemnation and its action. We must all stand firm in our support for Ukraine and support the freedom of the Ukrainian people. Our first actions must now be to support them with urgent humanitarian assistance. The cost of war in human lives and in unimaginable and preventable human suffering cannot be wished away. However, we can act to minimise the great evils that are unleashed by the Russian state’s aggression. We can help the destitute, those who flee violence and those whose health—physical and mental—is put at risk by war. Those who flee their homeland to escape the violence that has been unleashed upon them must be able to find sanctuary here. In Scotland and across the United Kingdom, we cannot shy away from our moral responsibility to those who are displaced.

Internationally, the UK must urgently reinforce our NATO allies. The hardest possible sanctions must be imposed against all those who are linked to Putin. Financial sanctions must be swift. Putin’s regime is sustained by its access to a global financial system that allows it to trade its goods and conduct its economic affairs. However, membership of that system is dependent on being a member of the international community of good standing—on being one who observes the rules. That is clearly no longer the case with Russia. Russia must be immediately excluded from financial mechanisms, such as SWIFT—the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication—and we should ban trading in Russian sovereign debt.

Putin’s campaign of disinformation and destabilisation has long sought to undermine our shared public understanding of the world. We know, following the publication in 2020 of the Russia report by the UK Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, that Russia has interfered in elections and referendums across the United Kingdom. Despite that, too many in Scottish and British public life continue to be comfortable turning a blind eye to the Kremlin’s corrosive influence. Shamefully, that list includes a former First Minister of Scotland. The tolerance that has been shown to those operations must end now.

This must be a turning point. We need an end to oligarch impunity. We need to draw a line under Companies House providing easy cover for shell companies and ensure that our money-laundering laws are enforced. We need to crack down on spies. We have to ensure that money is not pouring into UK politics from abroad. We have failed to stop the illicit flow of Russian finance into Britain and the influence of Russian money on our politics and public life. That must end, and it must end now.

There is no doubt that any action will be met with a response from the Russian regime. Vladimir Putin will seek to divide us. He will try to divide allies in Europe from one another. He will try to divide Ukrainians from their neighbours and sow the seeds of ethnic conflict. He will even try to divide us here in the United Kingdom—but we must pull together. Across the world today, the message is clear, and let that message be clear from this Parliament today, too. Peace and democracy will prevail. Vladimir Putin will fail.


Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western) (LD)

I rise to offer the Government motion this afternoon the unconditional support of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. I am very grateful to the First Minister for making time for the debate.

Today, the world is a little darker, the outlook a little bleaker and our understanding of the future a little less certain. It is at moments such as this that this chamber and Parliament are at their best, when we speak with one voice in solidarity with a sovereign people who are fighting for their lives, and in condemnation of the expansionist aggression of a hostile power led by a dictator—in this case, a power that has already perpetrated the first ever use of chemical weapons on British soil.

Today, we join Parliaments around the world in expressing outrage and sharing our commitment to democracy, sovereignty and the rule of law.

As on every day in this place, we have the immense privilege and the sovereign duty to speak on behalf of the Scottish people. As part of that duty, we must now condemn the Russian aggression in the strongest possible terms and say with our shared voice that we stand firmly on the side of the Ukrainian people and against the actions of Vladimir Putin, backed by his hosts of oligarch puppets.

As I dropped my daughter off at school this morning, we stopped to watch her classmates playing in the snow. I was brought up short by the stark contrast of that scene with the threat that hangs over the head of every Ukrainian child on this day. How fortunate we are to live in a country where the parents of my daughter’s classmates do not have to wake up to the sound of air raid sirens and fear the threat of bombardment, as parents in Kyiv did this morning.

As we watch events unfold in Ukraine over the coming hours and days, let us remember that many of the thousands of innocent citizens who are endangered are children. Edinburgh, as we have heard, is twinned with Kyiv. Now, in their hour of need, that relationship must stand for something: we in Scotland must prepare to offer Ukrainians fleeing their homes safe harbour in the villages and towns of Scotland.

By violating the territorial sovereignty of a democratic state, the Russian regime has broken the international laws that have prevented multinational conflict on the continent of Europe since world war two. There is nothing trivial about the situation and nothing legitimate about it. It cannot be justified. It is a grave threat to the safety of the people of Ukraine and to the international order on which the peace of our world depends.

This week, the Russian President described Ukraine as an American colony run by a “puppet regime”. Let us be abundantly clear in this place—in this democracy—that Ukraine is a sovereign democracy with a Government legitimately elected by the Ukrainian people. With his actions today, we should be in no doubt that Putin and his gangsters are holding us all in contempt. They are treating all that we value most—liberty, democracy and the rule of international law—as if they were immaterial rules in some playground game; rules that in Putin’s mind do not apply to him.

The Conservative Government at Westminster must now hobble Russian financial interests in the UK. Such aggression will not be matched by the confiscation of a football tournament final. This week, my colleague at Westminster Layla Moran MP used parliamentary privilege to read out the names of 35 Russian oligarchs listed by Alexei Navalny as being linked to the dangerous Russian regime. We believe that it is time for the UK Government to look closely at that list. Immediate action must be taken to freeze and begin to seize the assets of anyone who is found to be one of Putin’s enablers, and then to expel them from this country. It is also more vital than ever that we do all that we can to push back against the flow of Russian disinformation, so we should all commit to not participating in broadcasts by Russia Today or any other Russian state broadcasters.

I close by recognising that there will be millions of Russians who greet today’s news with the same horror that we all do. We must recognise them, because they do not enjoy the same rights as us to demonstrate that horror freely. For 20 years, they have been denied freedom of press, freedom of expression and even the most fundamental human rights, especially in the LGBTI community. Today, let us stand in solidarity with them, too.

Above all, let us say to our brothers and sisters in the sister city of Kyiv, “We hold you in our hearts, we stand with you and we will not abandon you.”


Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

As events in Ukraine unfold, minute by minute, the appalling and occasionally unhinged announcements from Russia’s capricious President mean that we cannot know his endgame. Putin’s comments on Ukraine’s very right to exist, which mirror those of Hitler decades ago in relation to Czechoslovakia, Poland and the former Soviet Union, make one wonder whether it is the extirpation of Ukrainian sovereignty itself.

This is a day of infamy for the people of Ukraine. Putin’s tanks are rolling; bombs rain down from Russian fighter jets; and Putin’s navy is shelling, too, in what is nothing short of a full-scale, illegal military invasion—one that the duplicitous Kremlin regime denied would take place.

At least 40 Ukrainians have already been killed, including a 15-year-old in his own home, and others are dying as we speak. While Putin lies about only targeting military infrastructure, footage from Kharkiv shows otherwise. This is a real war, with Ukrainian civilians at high risk. Even the Chernobyl nuclear plant is under attack.

I know that all our thoughts are with the victims and their families. Heartbreaking as it is to see the smoke billowing on our TV screens, we must watch, we must act, and we must pay tribute to the resilience, resolve and courage of Ukraine and her people.

It is surreal to hear academics and professors such as Maria Avdeeva, the research director of the European Expert Association, which identifies and analyses disinformation, who, sitting in her living room declared with the greatest dignity that she would not leave her hometown. Maria and her friends have trained in territorial defence units, and they will defend their country with everything that they have against this unprovoked attack on their freedom—because they must.

In addition to physical warfare, there have been disconcerting reports of so-called wiper attacks, to which hundreds of bank systems and other organisations in Ukraine are being subjected. Those cyberattacks are designed to completely and irreversibly wipe out Government and financial data, electrical grids and other important infrastructure in order to completely destabilise all of Ukraine.

Putin’s ludicrous declarations of independence—I saw no glorious speeches by putative presidents or ceremonies at supposed events in Luhansk and Donetsk—give the lie to the idea that those areas of Ukraine declared independence at the behest of what commentators mistakenly call separatists. In fact, Russia inspired, led, armed, trained and funded the militias there, not to create new nations but ultimately to annex those regions—integral parts of Ukraine—to Russia itself.

Sadly, the long-enduring Russian people will suffer from the excesses of their despotic President, from economic hardship to the loss of young Russian soldiers who will inevitably die in Ukraine. In the beleaguered, bewildered and terrified communities of Ukraine, that suffering will be greatly magnified. Their military is no match for Russia’s, and Putin had the element of surprise, as he chose when, where and how hard to strike.

A protracted guerrilla war is likely. In the 1940s, after the second world war, anti-Soviet Ukrainian partisans inflicted thousands of casualties on their opponents, who suffered higher fatality rates than in Afghanistan four decades later—a protracted insurgency that only ended after 400,000 Ukrainians were deported to Siberia and a further 200,000 were executed.

After the brutal Nazi occupation, Ukraine fought the Soviets because it had vivid memories of Stalin’s Holodomor, the genocidal terror famine that killed between 4 million and 7 million Ukrainians in the early 1930s, accompanied by the annihilation of Ukraine’s intelligentsia, traditional elite and even almost its entire Communist Party leadership.

Is it any wonder that, on 1 December 1991, in a turnout of 84.2 per cent, 92.3 per cent of Ukrainian voters—28,804,071 voters—voted for independence? It is that overwhelming democratic mandate, including an 84 per cent pro-independence vote in both Donetsk and Luhansk, that former KGB man Putin ignores and despises.

What to do, Presiding Officer? The days of sending in the Scots Guards are firmly behind us. Clearly, strong diplomatic condemnation that is accompanied with direct and severe economic sanctions must be immediately imposed. From a ban on Aeroflot flying to western countries to the freezing of assets—Russian state and oligarchic—and a cessation of Russian imports, every peaceful avenue must be brought to bear to pressurise Putin. If the west does not stand firm, a watching China could consider Taiwan fair game.

Providing humanitarian assistance to Ukraine is essential, and we must be prepared to welcome some of the inevitable tide of Ukrainian refugees who will flee west from the horrors of war. Covid has hit Russia hard with 350,000 official deaths and falling living standards, which has no doubt played a part in Putin’s warped thinking. Despots like foreign adventures to distract their people and shore up support, as bombs fall, people die, children cry and millions are in shock.

Russia must cease its attacks now. Resolute diplomacy, strong sanctions, international law and peace must prevail.


Sharon Dowey (South Scotland) (Con)

Like many other members in the chamber, I was shocked and dismayed when I woke this morning to discover the overnight change in the situation in Ukraine. Filling our television screens, on every channel, were images of Ukrainian refugees fleeing their homes, Russian tanks crossing the border into Ukraine, bombers streaming over Ukrainian cities and children crying in the streets. Those are scenes that we have not seen in Europe for a generation; they are sights that sadden and dismay and which I had hoped that we would never have to witness again.

The situation is continually evolving and, as I came out of committee, I was met with the news that Putin’s missiles were falling on residential areas that are home to innocent civilians, who did not ask for this war.

In what can only be described as a chilling statement last night, the Russian President warned us away from involvement in Ukraine. However, if he thinks that his threats will put us off, he is mistaken. If anything, they make Ukraine’s allies more determined than ever. We saw that in the unified international response last night, with the UK imposing a range of strict sanctions that target the Russian Government and its supporters and are already doing a considerable amount of damage to the Russian economy.

Dr Alasdair Allan (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)

I thank Sharon Dowey for giving way and agree with her sentiments. The Westminster Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, which has already been alluded to, produced a Russia report that many people would see as a blueprint for imposing the very kind of financial sanctions that the member refers to. Would she support the implementation of that report’s recommendations in full to achieve those aims?

Sharon Dowey

I think the member knows that we will be putting in more sanctions. There is also a bill going through, so that the Parliament can investigate things further—I think that the member might be aware of that.

It is not often that we agree on things in this chamber, but, today, we stand firm in a show of unity to our friends in Ukraine.

The links between our two countries are deep and long-standing. Ukrainians first arrived in Scotland in the 1750s, many studying at the universities in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Following them came a wave of their countrymen, fleeing the oppression of the Russian empire, just as Ukrainians are doing today. Many of those refugees arrived on Lothian Coal Company ships, settling in Midlothian, Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and Glasgow.

This conflict will only displace more people. Some estimate that it could displace up to 5 million people, which would be the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the 1990s. We must offer them our support, just as we did in the 1940s, when Ukrainian members of the Polish armed forces came to Scotland. Some eventually stayed and made their home here.

What can we do this time? That question has been asked many times already, and there is an answer. We can supply aid, whether financial or medical, and we could use the Scottish Government’s humanitarian emergency fund to help. People displaced by the conflict will require warm winter clothing and medicines. They will need food, sleeping bags, shelter and all the other things that are needed to survive the cold. Scotland can play a role in support of the UK’s overall effort.

We must take care not to forget that this is Putin’s war and not that of the Russian people. This morning, I was contacted by a young Russian man who is currently in a city in Russia. He told me:

“The people of Russia do not approve of what is currently happening in Ukraine. We do not want to live behind an iron curtain for the next 20 years trying to re-establish diplomatic relationships with the West and restore our economy. It is hard to imagine what is happening in Ukraine right now, but it is also not easy to wake up and be on the side of the aggressors in a military conflict. But this is what we now have due to the ambitions of one man who wants to restore the borders of the Soviet Union. Western countries can affect what is happening. The safety and future wellbeing of the Ukrainian and Russian peoples are worth the effort.”

His view is shared by hundreds of thousands of people across Russia who are sick of the propaganda, the nuclear sabre rattling and the rigged elections. Instead, they just want democracy—something that we take for granted. They are the Russians who we see bravely filling the streets of Moscow to protest, despite the threat of beatings, imprisonment or worse. People of that young man’s generation are the only ones who are capable of bringing about meaningful change in Russia in a revolution without bloodshed. However, for them to do so, they need our continued support.

In the Prime Minister’s statement earlier today, he had a clear message for the Ukrainians, which deserves repeating. He said:

“we are on your side.”

To that, I add: we will support you. Together, we will defeat Putin.


Fiona Hyslop (Linlithgow) (SNP)

This morning’s news of the invasion of Ukraine brings fear to generations who only know of war in Europe as history, and we all feel the dread of what will happen and what the response and any further escalation will mean.

What is done in peacetime to shore up alliances matters and the strength of that will be proven in the days to come. The invasion of the sovereign internationally recognised territory of Ukraine is a breach of international law and is to be condemned.

I want to focus on the people of Ukraine: the mothers who fear for their sons; the sons who fear for their mothers; those who have faced conflict in Donetsk and Luhansk since 2014; those fleeing Kyiv this morning in that steady stream of blinking red lights as cars formed the exodus; and the families with children in those cars who are afraid and in flight.

To the many Ukrainians I have met here in Scotland, I say, we want you to know that the Scottish Parliament will stand in support of you.

An estimated 4 million Ukrainians live in Russia, made up of 2 million permanent residents and 2 million temporary workers who have been told to leave. That is above those who are living in peril in Ukraine. It needs a massive international response. In previous conflicts, the Scottish Government has moved swiftly to offer help to refugees and we must work with the UK and EU to do so again.

I appeal to the UK Government to rethink its Nationality and Borders Bill because it will make it harder for people who are under threat in Ukraine and other areas to obtain asylum.

Humanitarian aid needs to be mobilised swiftly. Ukraine is the bread basket of Europe. The realities of food shortages must be prepared for and planned for now internationally as grain silos are reported as being bombed today.

President Putin’s sense of grievance at the collapse of the former Soviet Union is no justification for an imperialistic invasion destroying a peace in Europe that, however fragile, has prevailed for 70 years. This is the Kremlin’s war, not the Russian people’s war. The Russian people should have freedom and real democracy, and we need to support those who seek to champion the people over the Kremlin.

The pride and belligerence of empires in decline can prove to be very dangerous but we must guard against those qualities elsewhere. Democratic interference, as evidenced by the Westminster Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament’s Russia report, financial donations and the hosting of dirty money laundering must be hit head on. The UK’s democratic back door was left open to the Russians, but the front door was also opened, with generous entrance fees accepted. That weakens the UK Government’s influence just when we need it to act, and when support and respect for the international rule of law needs to be upheld and championed in the strongest of terms.

The UK Government needs to implement the recommendations of that report, expel the oligarchs, freeze the assets and enforce the hardest of economic sanctions, and it must do so swiftly. We need firm diplomacy. NATO’s response is loaded with consequences, meaning and interpretation, and its statement from this morning carefully states that Russia will pay a heavy economic and political price.

I return to the people of Ukraine. In 2016, I welcomed to the Scottish Parliament one hero of the 2014 Ukrainian Maidan revolution who galvanised the crowds at that time, the actor turned activist turned culture minister Yevhen Nyshchuk. Where are he and his family today? Wherever they are, on this darkest of days, we say, and say together, that this Parliament stands by Ukraine.


Ross Greer (West Scotland) (Green)

Today, we are witnessing the greatest crisis on our continent since the end of the second world war. If the story of the latter half of the twentieth century was the gradual progress of democracy over various stripes of authoritarianism, then sadly the story so far across the globe this century has been the opposite.

One man is responsible for the terrible crime that is being committed against the people of Ukraine today, but it is a failure of the international community and the structures that we built from the ashes of the second world war that has meant that he has been able to take that catastrophic step.

Ukraine is a sovereign, democratic nation whose people have the inalienable right to self-determination. It is a European nation, as its people have made clear by majority vote time and time again in recent years.

Putin’s claim that his invasion is intended to de-Nazify the country is not only offensive; it is plainly ridiculous when it is directed at one of the only nations on the planet to have simultaneously had a Jewish president and Prime Minister.

It was incumbent on Ukraine’s allies, such as the UK, to object after 2014, when the Azov Battalion, an explicitly neo-Nazi paramilitary, was integrated into the regular Ukrainian army. That was a propaganda coup for the Kremlin. However, that does not alter the fact that Ukraine is a liberal democracy with one of the most electorally marginalised far-rights in Europe. The real fascists here are those in the Kremlin and their puppets in the Donbas. Every democratic nation, especially those in Europe, must stand with Ukraine today.

I am proud that the most consequential economic response that has been taken so far has been the one taken by my Green colleague Robert Habeck, Germany’s Vice-Chancellor, who has finally terminated the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Much of the weakness in Europe’s approach to Russia over the past two decades has been driven by our dependence on Russian gas, which is a consequence of the failure to transition to clean, green domestic energy production. Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables is not just about the climate; for our continent, energy independence is a key issue of collective and national security.

However, it is clear that far greater sanctions than that are now required. All transactions with Russian state-backed entities or those that are owned by close associates of the Kremlin must be banned. Accounts and assets that are held by Russian elites here in the UK should be audited and those that cannot be legally accounted for seized. That should have started happening years ago. Any Russian banks or companies that are connected to Russia’s arms industry should also have their assets seized and be banned from operating internationally. We should not just take those steps unilaterally. The UK, France, Germany and others must co-ordinate our diplomatic efforts to persuade other nations across the world to follow us.

The list that I have given is far from exhaustive. The UK is a tax haven and a centre of global money laundering, as other members have said. Domestic anti-corruption efforts here will hurt Putin’s associates. We must clean up Companies House, impose transparency on offshore ownership of property, resource the agencies that investigate financial crime and audit all foreign donations to political parties.

Severe economic sanctions will have consequences here, too. We should acknowledge that and plan for how we will support those who are worst affected, but the consequences of failing to act would be far worse. This will not stop in Kyiv. The UK and the US may be hypocrites when it comes to wars of aggression and respect for sovereignty, but hypocrisy is no excuse for a failure to act when innocent people are dying.

Last year’s humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan cannot be repeated in Ukraine. The UK must follow the lead of countries such as Ireland and Moldova and stand ready to welcome refugees who flee the conflict, especially those who would be most at risk under a Russian occupation, such as journalists and LGBT people.

I want to raise the case of a constituent who is already caught up in the crisis. I have been working with Marie McNair and Amy Callaghan MP in an effort to arrange the safe return of a mother with settled status and her baby with British citizenship from visiting family in Belarus. They have made it as far as Lithuania but are being denied travel back to the UK, their home, as a result of one of the many administrative deficiencies in the Home Office system. They cannot return to Belarus for fear of being stuck there indefinitely, given the policies of the regime in Belarus and the extensive involvement of that country’s Government in Russia’s invasion operations.

The situation has been highly distressing for my constituent. When the mother phoned my team from the airport, she was in tears, having been rejected from yet another flight, as she was unable to prove her right to be in the UK. The Home Office has given her an appointment to make their case for urgent support in two weeks. That is not to say that they will get urgent support in two weeks; they will simply have the opportunity to present documents to make the case for it.

A mother and a baby are being expected to live in an airport for two weeks until the UK Government considers whether it might help them to return home. We are talking about a legal UK resident and a British citizen. If that is how the UK Government treats a British resident and a one-year-old, it leaves me deeply concerned about how ready we are to support the many Ukrainians who, sadly, will now be forced to flee here.

Today’s show of solidarity must not be a one-off. If the conflict becomes drawn out, we cannot become numb to it, as too many did with conflicts in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Khay zhyve Ukrayina—long live a free and independent Ukraine.


Willie Coffey (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)

I sincerely hope that the Scottish Parliament will unite this evening in solidarity with the people of Ukraine after their country was attacked this morning by the sleekit despot Vladimir Putin. Parliaments around the world will undoubtedly be holding similar debates. It is important that the voices of the people of Scotland are heard loud and clear. We support Ukraine, and we support its independence, its sovereignty and its continuing peaceful journey in democracy.

No country—no despot—has the right to thwart the will of the Ukrainian people, which was expressed overwhelmingly in 1991, when 92 per cent of its population supported and endorsed its independence. However, here we are in 2022, with the country almost encircled by Russian forces, amid the pretence that it was all about military exercises and peacekeeping in the region.

The cat was finally out of the bag when Putin announced that he supported the independence of two regions, Luhansk and Donetsk. That gives him the freedom, he says, to send his forces into those regions of Ukrainian territory and, now, across the country.

Putin’s claims that his actions are only about defending his territory from further encroachment by NATO countries wear a bit thin when we consider the fact that, if he occupies Ukraine, he will immediately be alongside eight NATO nations—Estonia, Latvia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey—with the incredible danger that that poses for the world. Clearly, his motive is to grab Ukraine and start expanding his Russian empire once again. The warning signs have been there since Crimea was grabbed in 2014.

The threatening language that has been used by Putin in recent days has shocked people across the world. I wonder whether members watched his staged press conference with his advisers, all of whom looked extremely uncomfortable—with one being humiliated and bullied into saying what Mr Putin wanted him to say. I found it shocking that a world leader could behave like that with his own trusted advisers and could act with such violence against his neighbours. I can only hope that the ordinary Russian people can see through that and challenge that man’s authority. Colleagues should remember that the power of the people is always greater than the people who are in power.

What can be done? Sanctions have already begun, but will they be enough? They did not reverse his actions in Crimea, and he got away with that. Surely new sanctions have to be swift and far reaching and to extend beyond targeting a few mega-rich Russians and a handful of banks. Putin is not stupid. He will have anticipated that and put in countermeasures to make sure that he can bankroll whatever action he wants to take.

What else, therefore, can be done? I am no international relations expert but, already, I am getting messages from my constituents demanding wider action. Surely there is a case for expelling Russia immediately from participation in all sporting events: the world cup, football competitions, the Olympics—the lot.

Should Russian airlines and private jets be banned from landing anywhere in the world? Last year, there were 10 million tourist visits out of Russia, and another 10 million business trips out of the country—of people who were no doubt enjoying their wealthy excesses and were in pursuit of shady deals across the world.

Governments everywhere must also get a grip of the situation in which Russian billionaires are eager to use their wealth to buy influence, position and assets, particularly in London. There is no point in some of our colleagues denying that their organisations have been beneficiaries of that in a big way. People who sup with the devil should make sure that they have a long spoon.

Finally, to the people of Ukraine, I say: Scotland stands with you, and we will do all that we can to protect your country, your people and your freedom. Myru ta svobody Ukrayini! Peace and freedom to Ukraine!


Martin Whitfield (South Scotland) (Lab)

It is a great pleasure to follow Willie Coffey in the debate.

There are days on which we wake up to events that will stick with us for the rest of our lives. Given the events of this morning, I fear that today will stay with those of us here in the chamber, everyone around Scotland and everybody around the world.

I welcomed the Prime Minister’s statement this morning that the UK

“cannot and will not just look away”

at Russia’s

“hideous and barbaric”

attack on Ukraine. That will be remembered, because Ukraine is not just a little breakaway republic, and Putin is not a peacekeeper; it was an invasion of a sovereign state. Since the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, and through the Russian Government’s on-going support for separatists in the Donbas, Russia has attempted to undermine the Ukrainian Government and to disrupt its path to democracy. Ukrainians want a democratic future, and they should be able to determine their own political destiny.

Last year, at the Crimea Platform summit in Kyiv, the secretary general of the Council of Europe, Marija Buric, said:

“We remain steadfast in our support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders and we support the full implementation of the Minsk agreements and the Paris summit conclusions that are crucial to ending the military conflict in Donbas”.

Yet today, we find ourselves where we are. We will stand firm behind the people of Ukraine, supporting their sovereignty and condemning Russian aggression. During this dark moment in history, we must all stand strongly against Russian aggression, in solidarity with Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine was unprovoked. It was an unjustifiable outrage and a heinous violation of international law that will, sadly, have tragic consequences. The Scottish Labour Party stands with our allies and partners in condemning it in the strongest possible terms, and we will maintain and strengthen our unity and our resolve on the matter. That includes a commitment to NATO that is unshakable. It is Russia’s actions that are driving this dangerous escalation of tensions. We believe in the importance of upholding and defending democracy and freedom of choice.

I would like to spend a moment concentrating on the refugees and displaced people who I fear will be a consequence of not just the past 24 hours but the build-up over the past years. There are already estimates that 2.9 million people will be in need, and that number will likely rise fast as more areas are targeted. There is a risk of large-scale displacement of people and flows of refugees out of the country, fleeing the conflict.

We need the Conservative Government at Westminster to urgently provide details on the scale of aid that it will provide to support the Ukrainian people at their time of need. I welcomed the comments this morning, at First Minister’s question time, about the commitment from here in Scotland to support those who come to us.

Russia must grant full and unfettered humanitarian access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, as it is required to under the Geneva conventions, and abide by the laws of armed conflict.

I was contacted by Stefan Kazmyrczuk, as I know that a number of MSPs from East Lothian and across the south of Scotland will have been. His grandfather came to Haddington during world war 2. Stefan wrote:

“Before the eyes of the world, a nuclear superpower has invaded a sovereign, independent, western-aligned nation with a show of chilling military force and a callous disregard of the democratic wishes of the citizens of Ukraine. This has been calculated and predicted by some of the most advanced technologies available to Western democracy but today,”

at this moment,

“we still stand on the cusp of a humanitarian disaster, unseen on our continent since the 1940s.”

The responsibility for that lies at the feet of Putin, but how we deal with it lies at our feet.


Michelle Thomson (Falkirk East) (SNP)

The condemnation of Russia’s declaration of war on Ukraine must be absolute and the reaction must be exceptional. The UK’s pitiful action thus far in the sanctioning of three individuals and five banks was simply waving a green flag to Putin. He will not care about sanctions unless they are so strong as to imperil the Russian economy, including the entirety of his inner-circle oligarchs and their involvement in international corruption and money laundering. Action such as that will require us to be willing to accept some costs.

Further Russian aggression will see countless innocent people, including women and children, killed, maimed, left homeless and destitute, with their future in tatters.

As declared in my entry in the register of interests, I am a director of the REVIVE Campaign, which advocates for the victims of conflict and explosive weapons. For some time now, we have been deeply concerned about Ukraine and her people. Parts of Ukraine still remain heavily contaminated with landmines and unexploded ordnance from previous conflicts.

The fog of war will make it even more difficult for those of us working in the humanitarian space to have an accurate picture of where the victims are and the extent of harm. Of course, it is always the innocent who suffer most in conflicts.

However, UK action thus far has hardly reached the level of feeble. In January 2017, David Leask in The Herald reported on an accusation by Ukraine’s anti-corruption bureau that a Scottish limited partnership was at the heart of a major arms scandal. That was part of Ukraine’s crackdown on corruption. Calls from the then SNP MP, Roger Mullin, for the security minister, Ben Wallace, to launch a detailed investigation fell on deaf ears. The UK Government still has no equivalent of Ukraine’s anti-corruption bureau and has never launched a major crackdown on corruption and money laundering.

In earlier debates, I have stated that £190 billion of financial crime plus £100 billion of money laundering occurs every year in the UK. Presiding Officer, I was wrong to quote the figure of £290 billion—I have underestimated the amount of money laundering. The UK’s National Crime Agency has stated that, because of the presence of the City of London’s financial sector,

“there is a realistic possibility”

that it is

“annually in the hundreds of billions of pounds”.

Money laundering on a gigantic scale, a significant proportion of which will involve Russian institutions and oligarchs, has been met with indifference for years. An economic crime bill has been talked about and then dropped—I will watch to see whether it will now proceed.

Mention has been made of the case of the Russian laundromat scandal, in which 113 Scottish limited partnerships were at the heart of over $20 billion that was being laundered from Russian banks. That is a direct stain on our international brand. One of those involved was Igor Putin, Vladimir Putin’s cousin.

The UK Government should have closed down massive corruption and money laundering long before now. The oligarchs and corrupt institutions have been given a free pass. Real and substantive action must now be taken. We will not be standing with the Ukrainian people if we do not act decisively now.


Christine Grahame (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)

I am something of an insomniac and, as is typical, I woke up at 3 am this morning and turned my small bedside television on to News 24, so I saw minute by minute the developments at the emergency meeting of the UN Security Council and I saw the invasion of and declaration of war on Ukraine by Putin.

I listened to the submissions by the Ukrainian representative—some were painful—as he heard about the attacks on his homeland. Something he said really caught my attention. He challenged the Russian representative to produce minutes of a meeting in 1991. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I looked into it.

As we know, Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council—one of five, along with China, France, the UK and the US. The council is, ironically, a legacy of what happened post world war two. Any member can veto any substantive resolution, so we are stuck. Russia, along with the four other members, is charged with maintenance of international peace and security—not with disrupting it. Obviously, Russia cannot remain a member. My understanding is that it takes a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly to suspend or expel a country from the UN—but that is unlikely.

However, there is another avenue to explore. Russia was not always a permanent member of the Security Council—the Soviet Union was. Was it legal, therefore, for Russia simply to step into the shoes of the Soviet Union in 1991? It is an entirely different country, with different territorial boundaries—although Putin, in his political madness, obviously has plans for other surrounding countries.

There is a precedent. In 1971, under Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist Government, the Republic of China was replaced on the UN by the People’s Republic of China, which does not include Taiwan. Of course, Taiwan is still not a member of the UN. Under UN General Assembly resolution 2758, the General Assembly recognised the People’s Republic of China as the rightful representative of China in the UN and gave it the seat on the Security Council.

I am not an expert on international law, but I am not aware of any such resolution to recognise Russia as the successor to the Soviet Union, whose territory changed considerably.

That might seem to be dry legal stuff, but is that a route to expelling Russia from its permanent seat on the UN Security Council? That is a real test for the United Nations. The League of Nations failed. It is a test to see whether, with legalities, the UN can expel the disgraceful and atrocious behaviour of Putin from the UN Security Council.


Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

Today, Parliament has demonstrated democracy in action. All our leaders have expressed solidarity with the people of Ukraine and have called for action to stop the military invasion. Colleagues from all across the chamber have highlighted the peril that the world now faces.

For days, I have, like others, been watching analysis and late-night “Newsnight” interviews, following the coverage of Putin’s statements and of the build-up of troops on the border, and listening to the ramping up of aggression. We, our European neighbours, the US and the UN have spoken out on the need for respect for nation states, and have called for dialogue in order to de-escalate the tensions that are being promoted. We are members of NATO, and we have links across the UK, the EU and the US, which are vital. We need to warn of the cost and consequences of military intervention. Relations across democracies will never be perfect, but we are allies and we should treat one other with respect and co-operate, and we should work between our Parliaments and Governments to deliver solidarity.

As a student of 20th century history, I have—filled with dread—watched what has happened in the past few weeks. We are now in the last place that we want to be in. It is a dangerous place for the people of Ukraine and, as colleagues have suggested, for the world as a whole. We need to send a firm and unambiguous message about our commitment to the security of our allies and the sovereignty of Ukraine.

In recent weeks in our Parliament, there have been excellent debates on Holocaust memorial day and on the Nationality and Borders Bill. The lessons on the immediate and long-term costs of people suffering and having to flee from military aggression are stark.

While expressing solidarity with the people of Ukraine, we must do everything that we can to support them in their time of need. That means action. It means humanitarian support for people who might have to flee from Ukraine, with safe routes and good futures. We debated that on Tuesday, this week. As Anas Sarwar made clear, we have a moral responsibility to deliver humanitarian support.

As many members across the chamber have said, sanctions are crucial, so that there is a cost to the Russian regime for its aggressive actions and to make it clear to Putin that there will be massive costs for his actions. However, there is much more that the UK Government can do. Our Labour colleagues in the UK Parliament have been holding the UK Government to account on the cost of the lack of action on the Russia report. As Keir Starmer has highlighted this week, oligarchs and millionaires have had free deals to come to the UK, buy property and make profits with no tax accountability or transparency. That has to end now.

As others have said—Fiona Hyslop said this powerfully—we need to crack down on money laundering and shell companies. As an article in The Guardian yesterday observed, we need a crackdown on donations to the Conservative Party. The debate is not about whether that happened, but about how much was donated.

We also need to work together to challenge false messaging. In recent weeks, we have debated the benefits of the BBC and the public broadcasting and news standards that we have in our regulated media. We have observed that our Governments are not always happy with the media, but we have standards of accuracy, which are vital. It is time to challenge RT, which does not apply such standards of rigour and accuracy. It is shocking to think that a former First Minister of Scotland is still spearheading that channel in the UK. We all need to reflect on that. The Russian Government has used false messaging in relation to Donbas and Luhansk in recent days, so urgent action is required now.

Crucially, we need to stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and to support those who need to flee to safety. We need to condemn the deliberate escalation and the misinformation in the lead up to the invasion of Ukraine, and we need to work together to tackle Russian money laundering. We need to support every effort to de-escalate the crisis that the world now faces and we need to call for an end to the military aggression and intimidation.

This afternoon, I attended a peaceful solidarity demonstration outside the Russian consulate. People in Ukraine who have relatives living in Scotland are worried about and fearful for their families and the future of their country. They say that they have been calling for years for stronger action on and sanctions against the influence of corrupt Russian money.

We must act and reflect. We must remove Russia from financial mechanisms such as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. We must come together now to do everything that we can do.

I hope that the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture will say in his closing speech what more we can do to stand resolutely with our allies to send a clear message and to protect Scotland from cyberattacks. I hope that he will tell us what the Scottish Government is doing to reach out and support people in the event of devastating humanitarian consequences of what is happening in Ukraine.

As others have said, there is a growing crisis in Ukraine, but we also need to send a message to leaders across the world that aggression and lack of respect for sovereignty are not acceptable. We must stand up for democracy across the globe.

I call Liz Smith to wind up for the Scottish Conservatives. We have some time in hand, so I can be generous.


Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Times like this make us think carefully about what this place stands for. Members have stood together this afternoon to condemn what is happening in Ukraine at the hands of Vladimir Putin. The absence of any amendments to the motion for debate shows how strong the unity across the chamber is. We may have very strong party-political differences, but the principles of democracy matter far more. It is those principles of democracy that are currently at stake in Ukraine and across the world.

Like several other members, I woke this morning to the sound of air raid sirens and shelling on Nick Robinson’s BBC broadcast from Kyiv. Those were not the air raid sirens and shells to which we have become accustomed in history documentaries: the sirens and shelling were for real. The BBC’s report was chilling, as has been the case throughout today’s media broadcasts.

Hearing BBC reporters describe buildings in the centre of Kyiv made me recall my only visit to the city, back in 1991. That followed several visits that I had made to Leningrad and Moscow in the late 1980s, as a young teacher interested in Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost. Like other Soviet states that declared their independence in 1991, Ukraine was emerging from 70 years of totalitarianism, having suffered civil war in the Bolshevik revolution, famine in the 1930s, brutal Nazi occupation in the second world war and then purges and economic stagnation. Our guide told us that there was a strong reawakening of Ukrainian identity. That was evident from the talk of democracy in cafes and bars and from the flying of the Ukrainian flag, with its sharp blue and yellow denoting the sky above the golden prairies, in places where it would previously have been banned.

The story of Ukraine since then is largely the story of its attempts to define a new future for itself in Europe and of Russia’s attempts to disrupt that new direction at every turn. That obstruction has now become unprovoked military aggression and a flagrant disregard for international law. Vladimir Putin’s illegal actions in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions violate the Minsk protocol and this morning’s military manoeuvres elsewhere are final proof—if any were needed—that the Russian Government is intent on expanding its sphere of influence westwards, no doubt with the aid of Belarus.

The invasion has happened because the Ukrainian people have had the guts to stand up to Russian influence and to declare that they have no wish to be held hostage by Putin. Like us, they wish to guard their precious democracy.

Russia’s actions are repugnant, not only because of the likely killing of thousands of innocent people or because of the humanitarian disaster that will inevitably follow, but because of the fear that Russia could use its recent so-called recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk as an excuse for the future annexation of other former Soviet states. As the First Minister said, it may also encourage other dictatorships to do the same.

Where are we right now? First, the combined intelligence of the United States, Britain and NATO in recent weeks has proven to be entirely accurate, despite some scepticism in various quarters that that was not the case. To some extent, that accuracy is reassuring, and it perhaps helps us to understand better exactly what is happening on the ground, which can better inform the strategy of what has now become a wholly unified west.

We know that the Ukrainian army, although it is not able to take on the military might of Russia, is much bigger and better prepared than it was eight years ago. We know, too, that the recent lessons of history in Afghanistan send a very strong warning signal to Putin that any invasion, which could be long and bloody, against a country of such size as Ukraine does not end well for the aggressor. This is not Georgia or Chechnya—bad as those situations were—but something much bigger.

There is something else in the equation, and that is the response of the Russian people themselves, who have little appetite for the war or for Putin’s aggression. They know that the war would bring death not only to a vast number of Ukrainian citizens but to Russian citizens, too. The image of Russian body bags at the door of the Kremlin would not sit well with Russian public opinion and might have much greater influence on Putin himself than will the economic sanctions imposed by the west. We should make no mistake about it: those sanctions have to happen as part of the punishment of Putin, but we should not be fooled into thinking that they are the only factor that will drive Putin’s reactions.

The sanctions that are imposed to further curtail the activities of the Russian state and the economy have to happen in conjunction with the agreement of our G7 allies. That joint action is vital, as nothing would be better received by Putin than disunity among the west. It will inevitably mean that difficult decisions need to be taken, such as restricting the imports of Russian gas that have, for nations such as Germany in particular, been so crucial.

What is critical about the past 24 hours is the fact that Putin has actually succeeded in uniting the west at a time when there had been tensions and some division. Sanctions are now agreed—there are more coming—as is the need for them to be focused on Putin’s oligarchs and his financial backers, including those who have sought to harbour their wealth in the UK.

However, it is also important that we increase support to our NATO allies. The UK Government has already doubled the size of its deployment in Estonia, where the British Army leads NATO’s battle groups, including tanks and armoured vehicles. As the Prime Minister said, we have to be supportive of the Baltic states. We must honour those commitments.

The current actions by Russia are a very serious threat to world peace, and they threaten to bring about a geopolitical realignment that is unprecedented since the end of the cold war. Vladimir Putin is guilty of so many falsehoods to justify his actions—a trademark of dictatorship. There is no doubt that his actions, should they be allowed to continue, will be catastrophic for his own people, as well as for Ukrainian citizens. We cannot—indeed, we must not—stand by and watch, because if we do, we will witness the resurgence of authoritarian regimes across the world, whose attacks against democracies will only be emboldened.


The Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture (Angus Robertson)

I thank all members who have taken part in the debate and highlight the unanimity across the Scottish Parliament in support of Ukraine—its people, its democracy and its territorial integrity. I credit with strong speeches the First Minister, the leaders of all the political parties and colleagues on all sides of the chamber: Kenneth Gibson, Sharon Dowey, Fiona Hyslop, Ross Greer, Willie Coffey, Martin Whitfield, Michelle Thomson, Christine Grahame, Sarah Boyack and Liz Smith. I note, in particular, the points that have been made about humanitarian assistance and the need for welcome and support for the refugees who will undoubtedly reach these shores and about the need for swift sanctions as well as combating dirty money and fighting the subversion of democracy.

A number of members rightly stressed the long-standing connections between Scotland and Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainians have come to this country over previous centuries. Our capital is twinned with the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, and today the flag of Ukraine flies above Edinburgh city chambers. At the heart of our capital, on Calton Hill, we have two Ukrainian memorials—more than any other country. One recognises the importance of St Volodymyr, the prince of Kyiv. The second acknowledges the Holodomor, which has already been referred to. It was the genocidal famine that the Soviet Union forced on Ukraine.

Like many people around the world and all of us around the chamber, I watched in horror as the news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine unfolded overnight, following several weeks of intensifying manoeuvres, disinformation and cyberattacks. I am distressed at reports of deaths and my heart goes out—as I know is the case for all MSPs—to every Ukrainian, wherever they may be.

The Scottish Government unreservedly condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is in flagrant violation of international law. We call for an immediate cessation of Russia’s aggression and express grave concern at reports of civilian casualties across Ukraine. President Putin’s actions are utterly indefensible. The international community must hold him to account. We offer our unqualified support for Ukrainian sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and especially to the people of Ukraine.

Gillian Mackay (Central Scotland) (Green)

We are two years into a pandemic, which will undoubtedly have an effect on the ability of countries around Ukraine to take people in. Moldova has thrown its doors open and is probably the country in Europe least able to afford to take people in. Will the cabinet secretary outline what humanitarian support the Scottish Government will be able to provide to Moldova and Ukraine itself?

Angus Robertson

I can confirm to Gillian Mackay that conversations on humanitarian assistance have already begun within the Scottish Government. In a very fast-moving situation, we will consider the range of humanitarian resource and where it might be best applied. However, Ms Mackay makes a good point about Moldova and other countries that immediately border Ukraine, such as Slovakia and Romania. There are already tailbacks at all those countries’ borders, with people seeking support. Those countries deserve our help, and we will make decisions in the coming days and weeks about how we can best provide that.

Let us be clear: Russia’s invasion was wholly unprovoked and deserves the international community’s full-throated condemnation. Putin’s claim that the attack on a sovereign, democratic nation is about “denazification” is deeply offensive to the memory of the people who lost their lives in the battle against fascism in world war two, including tens of millions of Russians. His claim that Russia does not plan to occupy Ukraine rings as hollow as the denials in preceding weeks.

I echo the words of Josep Borrell of the European Union that these are among the darkest hours for Europe since world war two. We stand steadfast with our neighbours in the European Union in our condemnation of the barbaric attack.

Paul O’Kane (West Scotland) (Lab)

I know that the cabinet secretary will share my horror at the situation that is unfolding for LGBT+ people in Ukraine. Indeed, in today’s coverage, I read a statement from an 18-year-old student in Kharkiv who said:

“If we imagine that Russia occupies … Ukraine … they won’t allow us to exist … and to fight for our rights”.

Does the cabinet secretary agree that we must do all that we can to support the LGBT+ community in Ukraine and that the UK Government must have a solid plan to welcome refugees who fear for their lives? [Applause.]

Angus Robertson

Yes, I agree unreservedly, as do colleagues across the chamber. Along with our partners across Europe, in the United Kingdom and globally, we need to stand up for the rule of law, democratic rights and human dignity, including for the likes of the LGBTQ+ community. Those are values that, as Putin’s actions show, cannot be taken for granted and must be defended.

Every nation’s security is threatened by Russia’s aggression. Progressive, democratic values cannot be imperilled on the world stage. The international community must strengthen its resolve to co-operate and stand together against Putin’s aggression.

Now is the time for the UK and the wider international community to bring the full weight of sanctions to all involved. Russia’s action follows a clear pattern of behaviour in recent years, and it is time for the international community to say “enough”.

The invasion of Ukraine is the latest and most severe example of Russia undermining sovereign states, but we should not forget Putin’s hostile actions against Moldova and Georgia or, earlier, the annexation of Crimea.

Russia has, beyond doubt, carried out state-sponsored assassinations of dissidents abroad, it is a sponsor of cyberattacks globally and, through the engagement of Russian mercenaries, it is a destabilising factor in conflict zones throughout Africa.

Will the cabinet secretary take an intervention?

I will give way for the last time.

Does the cabinet secretary agree that Russia must be expelled as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council? We must find a way for that to happen.

Angus Robertson

I agree that all diplomatic consideration should be given to ways in which the Russian regime can be combated in multilateral and bilateral terms. It is not for me to stand here and answer that question in the affirmative, but I think that all efforts and considerations should be made to force Russia to change its course of action.

The international community must now show that the behaviour of the Russian Federation cannot be tolerated. As the First Minister has done, I stress that the quarrel is with Putin and his cronies, not with the people of Russia, nor the Russian community who live and work in Scotland and are a valued part of our national community.

I will turn to the Ukrainian community in Scotland. In recent days, the First Minister and I have met the acting Ukrainian consul general, Yevhen Mankovskyi, and Linda Allison, the chair of the association of Ukrainians who live here, to pass on the Scottish Government’s deepest condolences on the invasion by Russia and to offer any assistance that we can.

I reiterate our strong offer of support for the Ukrainian community, including those who live in Scotland. I appreciate that this will be a severely worrying time for those with any links to Ukraine or with family and friends who live there. As the First Minister said, we have strong historical ties to Ukraine, and those who chose to make Scotland their home are valued and welcome members of our community.

I also raise the issue of those who are still in Ukraine. Scottish Government officials are in contact with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s consular teams so that we can support inquiries from residents of Scotland who are concerned about family and friends in Ukraine. I would urge those who have remained in Ukraine to follow the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s travel advice to leave as soon as it is safe to do so.

Like Scotland, Ukraine is part of the family of European nations. We will not turn our backs on Ukraine but will do our utmost to support the country during this dark and harrowing time.

That concludes the debate on solidarity with Ukraine.