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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament

Meeting date: Thursday, February 23, 2023


Marking One Year of War against Ukraine

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Liam McArthur)

Before we move on to the next item of business, a debate marking one year of war against Ukraine, I am sure that colleagues will wish to join me in welcoming Mr Andrii Kuslii, the consul of Ukraine in Edinburgh. [Applause.]

The next item of business is a debate on motion S6M-07998, in the name of Neil Gray, on marking one year of war against Ukraine.


The Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development and Minister with special responsibility for Refugees from Ukraine (Neil Gray)

I join you, Presiding Officer, in welcoming my friend Andrii Kuslii to the public gallery. It is a pleasure to have him here to hear the Parliament express its solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

It is now almost a year since Russian troops swarmed across Ukraine’s borders in what was a brutal, unprovoked invasion against a peaceful neighbour. Today’s debate gives us the opportunity to stand together, united, as we pause and reflect on the impact that the past year has had on the people of Ukraine, including the brave soldiers who continue to fight daily for their country, their people, their culture and their heritage; those who have sadly lost their lives in the conflict; and those who have had to leave their homes and flee to other countries to find sanctuary.

The Scottish Government has repeatedly condemned Russia’s unprovoked and illegal war against Ukraine, which stretches back to the invasion of Crimea in 2014. More broadly, we continue to stand for democracy, human rights and the rule of law at home and abroad, and we reject whole-heartedly the premise that Russia was somehow provoked into its latest aggression by the democratic decisions made by sovereign nations in central Europe to join NATO.

Putin’s propaganda does not cover up the fact that his army has invaded a member state of the United Nations. As the UN secretary general said on 24 February 2022, Russia’s actions conflict directly with the charter of the United Nations. Everyone in Scotland and the international community is appalled by the atrocities that are being inflicted upon the people of Ukraine day after day. Actions that intentionally direct missile attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure constitute war crimes. The Scottish Government agrees that those responsible for atrocities committed in Ukraine, including military commanders and other individuals in the Putin regime, must be held accountable. The courage that has been shown by the Ukrainian people has been extraordinary. Ukraine’s armed forces have shown that, if they are given the tools to do the job, they can defeat Russia.

However, in praising Ukraine’s armed forces for their bravery and successes, we cannot become complacent. Russia is not giving up in its aim to take as much Ukrainian territory as possible, as we have seen from the fact that fighting has intensified along much of the front line in recent weeks. An insight into the warped minds of those prosecuting the war against Ukraine was provided when the leader of the shady Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, recently said that

“the meat grinder is working”.

That chilling comment, which refers to the fierce battles around Bakhmut, shows not only that the Russian leadership is content to see large numbers of its troops perish on the battlefield, but that their deaths are part of its strategy.

In his state-of-the-nation address earlier this week, Putin laid bare the rambling depravity of his world view. One person is responsible for the invasion of Ukraine, and that is Putin himself. We condemn his announcement to suspend Russia’s participation in the new START treaty. There is no justification for threatening the use of nuclear weapons. During his visit to Kyiv on Monday, President Biden said that Putin believed Ukraine to be weak and the west to be divided, that he counted on NATO not maintaining unity, and that he thought he would outlast us. The international community has shown great resolve in maintaining its support for Ukraine, as we have seen through the provision of support for displaced Ukrainians across Europe, ever-tightening sanctions and the increasing quantity and sophistication of military aid. However, again, we cannot take that for granted. It is now vital that the international community provides further support for Ukraine. That is essential both for Ukraine itself and for longer-term peace and stability in Europe.

I would like to emphasise Scotland’s continued support for all those affected. The Scottish Government has provided £4 million in financial aid to help to provide basic humanitarian assistance, including health, water and sanitation supplies and shelter for those fleeing Ukraine. So far we have sent five consignments of medical supplies to Poland for onward transport to Ukraine, totalling 156 pallets worth almost £3 million. We have also committed £300,000 to the Halo Trust, a Dumfries and Galloway-based charity that specialises in removing landmines and other dangerous explosive devices. Today, I am pleased to announce to Parliament that we will provide an additional £1 million in funding to be allocated between the British Red Cross, Christian Aid and the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund—organisations that we all know are key in providing much-needed humanitarian aid and support to the people of Ukraine. [Applause.]

This week, the First Minister wrote an open letter to Ukrainians both in Scotland and around the world, in which she condemned Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. The letter highlights the extraordinary resilience shown by the Ukrainian people and makes it clear that they are welcome in Scotland for as long as they want to be here.

The international solidarity with Ukraine among democratic nations has, of course, only been strengthened by the outpouring of generosity and compassion by people across the world who have welcomed those displaced by the war in Ukraine into their communities and their homes. Since the conflict began, more than 23,000 people with a Scottish sponsor have arrived in the United Kingdom. That is the equivalent of welcoming the population of Arbroath to resettle here and represents around 20 per cent, or one fifth, of all UK arrivals—the most per head in any of the four nations of the UK.

Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western) (LD)

I am grateful to the minister for giving way, and I congratulate the Scottish Government on bringing so many Ukrainians here. One slight problem with that is that, at this time, only 18 per cent of those who have arrived on our shores seeking safe harbour have found any kind of long-term accommodation. The minister will be aware of my call to extend the free discretionary bus travel scheme to refugees on all schemes who are finding safe harbour in Scotland, so that they might take up opportunities of accommodation beyond the central belt.

Neil Gray

I thank Alex Cole-Hamilton for his question and pay tribute to him for his involvement and steadfast support for the people of Ukraine in Scotland. We are looking at all that we can do in terms of concessionary travel and the accommodation that we can provide through the £50 million long-term resettlement fund, which allows properties to be brought back into use. That has already been done for 750 properties, and more projects are in the pipeline.

More than 19,000 of the arrivals in Scotland have come through the Scottish Government’s successful supersponsor scheme. When we compare the numbers to other schemes, such as the Syrian resettlement scheme, under which we welcomed 3,000 arrivals over a period of five years, we can appreciate the scale of the current challenge and the herculean effort of all our key partners in ensuring that displaced people receive a warm Scottish welcome.

We have been assisted in welcoming vast numbers to our country by the consular corps staff from Ukraine, Poland, Romania and many other countries. I take this opportunity to thank Andrii Kuslii and Yevhen Mankovsky for working with us in the past year. I am hugely grateful to them for the expertise that they have shared on issues such as schooling, housing, culture and community integration. Their input has been invaluable to our response.

I also take the opportunity to thank all those who have opened their homes and welcomed displaced people from Ukraine into their families. They have acted with kindness and in recognition of a shared humanity with our friends from Ukraine. It is our shared mission to ensure that our friends from Ukraine can call Scotland their home for as long as they need it to be, and we are seeking to ensure access to sustainable, longer-term accommodation for displaced people.

When the war broke out, we acted swiftly to ensure that welcome accommodation was available. As well as mobilising hotels, we chartered two passenger ships to temporarily house arrivals from Ukraine. They provided a safe place, at pace, in a time of need for large numbers of people who were fleeing war, but it was always our intention that those measures would and should be temporary.

In September, we launched our Ukraine longer-term resettlement fund, making up to £50 million available to bring empty council and rented social landlords’ properties into use and to increase the housing supply. The homes provided will be good, affordable and quality homes, and they will be available for rent for up to three years, after which some will continue to be available as social rented homes.

Work is already under way in Aberdeen, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and North Ayrshire to bring more than 750 void properties into use for the benefit of displaced people. I visited the homes in North Lanarkshire and was delighted to see the efforts that have been implemented to ensure that displaced people have a suitable home to live in while they are here, in Scotland, and also to see the support from the community for those people being here.

The Scottish Government has provided significant funding of around £200 million during the past year and it is set to invest more than £70 million next year to ensure that those who have been displaced by the illegal war in Ukraine are supported to rebuild their lives in our communities. However, our commitments need to be matched by the UK Government. With UK funding set to fall from £10,500 to £5,900 for each of those who arrive after 1 January 2023, we urge the UK Government to do more to support displaced Ukrainians across the UK.

There is clearly a wealth of activity to help displaced people from Ukraine to settle well across the country. That would not have been possible without the continued help, support and collaboration of our local authority partners, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and third sector organisations and volunteers. The truth is that fully integrating displaced people from Ukraine into our society goes beyond securing a visa and finding accommodation. It is a commitment to ensuring that those who have come from Ukraine can enjoy the same rights and opportunities as those who are already living in Scotland.

Local authorities, third sector organisations and volunteers have been instrumental in providing displaced people with support and advice to help them to access a wide array of services and opportunities. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to thank all those organisations for their valued contributions, but they should be assured that the important contributions that they have made and continue to make are being felt up and down the country. They are literally changing lives.

I also thank those Ukrainians who have decided to make Scotland their temporary home. They are making a fantastic contribution to the communities that they are becoming an integral part of. They bring skills, culture and diversity, which we welcome with open arms. Many of our guests have taken up employment and are settling well into communities across Scotland. Children and young adults are also settling well into schools, colleges and universities across the country.

As we solemnly recognise that a year has passed since the illegal invasion of Ukraine, we all hope that Ukraine will soon have peace restored. Our message remains one of strong support and solidarity, and I say once again to the Ukrainian community in Scotland—you are welcome here for as long as you choose to make Scotland your home.

On Tuesday night, the Presiding Officer and I hosted the postcards for Ukraine event in the Parliament building. A number of powerful speeches were made that evening, but what struck me—they stick with me still—were the words of Artem, an injured soldier from Ukraine who is receiving treatment in Scotland. He said:

“May your hearts never give up on Ukraine.”

Our hearts will never give up. The people of Scotland, this Government and this Parliament will always hold Ukraine in our hearts, and we will always show solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

I move,

That the Parliament condemns in the strongest possible terms the illegal Russian war against Ukraine, which began on 24 February 2022; reiterates its solidarity with the people and government of Ukraine; repeats its concern about the grave threat to the safety and security of Ukrainian citizens, and mourns each and every death caused by Russia’s illegal aggression; asserts the vital importance of Ukraine defeating Russia’s aggression and calls upon the international community to provide Ukraine with the necessary military, financial and humanitarian support; rejects Russia’s illegal attempts to annex the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia via sham referenda; commends all countries who have welcomed displaced Ukrainians and are providing crucial life-saving humanitarian assistance to Ukrainians in need of support; thanks the organisations and people that have supported displaced Ukrainians to settle in Scotland; declares unequivocally that all Ukrainians who have made Scotland their temporary home will be welcome for as long as they need; welcomes the poignant Postcards from Ukraine exhibition hosted in the Scottish Parliament, and wishes a speedy and peaceful resolution to the war that ensures Ukrainian sovereignty, democracy, independence and territorial integrity within its internationally-recognised borders.


Donald Cameron (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I associate the members on the Conservative benches with the welcome to the consul of Ukraine.

On a visit a few months ago to the MS Victoria ship, which is docked in Leith and on which hundreds of Ukrainians are currently being housed, I saw something that has left an indelible mark on me. There was a gallery of pictures drawn by the many children who are living on that boat, and one of the pictures caught my attention. It was a picture of Ukraine and above it was written: “I will go home”. That revealed so much—not just the honesty and defiance that children sometimes express better than adults but, perhaps more pertinently, the fact that Ukrainians in Scotland do not see themselves as staying here permanently. They do not like to be called refugees, because they are not—we are simply a staging post before they return home.

That is why it is so important that, today of all days, we stand together as a Parliament in solidarity with people in and of Ukraine. We will of course support the motion in the name of Neil Gray this evening. I associate the members on the Conservative benches with his remarks and I thank him for his on-going efforts to keep Opposition MSPs updated on what the Scottish Government is doing to support Ukrainians who are living in Scotland, and on its wider work on that important issue.

It is vital that we have the debate today, to make it clear that Scotland stands with Ukraine during the conflict. The slings and arrows of domestic politics and the cut and thrust of everyday debate in this chamber do not matter today. Like Parliaments around the world, the Scottish Parliament will send a message of hope to Ukraine, and a robust rejection of Russia’s illegal war, which will be a year old tomorrow.

Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

Does Mr Cameron agree that one of the issues that faces Ukraine is the fact that it is being given enough weapons to hold off the Russians, but not enough to defeat them? If that war is not to continue year in, year out—with all the difficulties that that will cause for Ukraine—the country should be given the weapons to defeat Russia and fully liberate its territory.

Donald Cameron

I agree with the broad thrust of Kenneth Gibson’s comments and I note what the UK Government, among other Governments across the world, has done in that regard.

I will concentrate my comments on our solidarity with our Ukrainian friends and restate some truths, as Neil Gray has just done.

We deplore the illegal invasion of Ukraine by the Putin regime; we condemn the horrific attacks on innocent civilians that have occurred during this past year; we share the revulsion that many have expressed and continue to express about this provocative callous action and the violent horror that it has unleashed; we support the international efforts to supply Ukraine with military assistance and humanitarian aid; we support the sanctions imposed on Russia by the international community; and we recognise the efforts of both the Scottish Government and the UK Government to welcome Ukrainians who are fleeing the war to make their home here for the time being.

I will explore a few of the issues in a bit more detail, because the rapid response of both our Governments to the crisis has been very impressive. Whether through the UK-wide homes for Ukraine scheme or Scotland’s supersponsor scheme, we have ensured that many Ukrainians can come to our country for as long as necessary. I do not want to stray too far from the consensual nature of the debate, but one of the concerns that we will raise, because it exists, is around housing and the fact that work is needed, particularly around longer-term accommodation for Ukrainians who are living and working in Scotland. The British Red Cross has stated that there has been

“minimal support available for displaced Ukrainians to access other forms of accommodation if re-matching isn’t successful or if they want a longer-term housing solution.”

I accept that the Scottish Government has recognised that and has established the resettlement fund, which was referenced by Neil Gray in his comments. However, there are concerns that that might be available only to some and not others, and I hope that the minister can address that in closing.

Neil Gray

I thank Donald Cameron for his remarks around our support and the UK Government’s support for the people of Ukraine. We are working with the British Red Cross on the concerns that it has raised, and we are working very closely on how we can ensure that we are responding to what it has said.

On the longer-term resettlement fund, I want to reiterate that the opportunity is there for all local authorities to come forward with proposals about where they can repurpose buildings and where they can bring void properties back into use. That will be a major contribution in ensuring that people have longer-term resettlement options here in Scotland.

I encourage Donald Cameron, his colleagues and all members in Parliament to speak to local authorities about potential opportunities that might be open.

Donald Cameron, I can give you the time back.

Donald Cameron

Thank you. I am grateful to the minister for clarifying that.

The significant aid contributions of both Governments to help those who remain in Ukraine are noteworthy. In total, the UK has so far contributed £220 million of humanitarian aid to Ukraine. We also welcome the £4 million of humanitarian aid from the Scottish Government, as well as the additional £1 million that was mentioned today, as part of the wider effort.

Sanctions have been in place against Russia since 2014, following its unlawful annexation of Crimea. The UK Government, rightly in my view, legislated to establish an unprecedented package of sanctions. As of last week, some 1,471 Russian individuals and 169 entities are subject to UK sanctions. In addition, we have sanctioned Russian banks and defence sector organisations, banned Russian vessels from UK ports and banned Russian aircraft from flying or landing in the UK.

It is right and proper that that continues at home and abroad, including in the European Union, which has acted with impressive haste on sanctions. We must continue to identify economic measures that exert pressure on Russian to end this war.

It is hard to think that a year has gone past since Russia invaded. It seems a much shorter time than that, but for those Ukrainians affected, it probably seems much, much longer. Even though a year has elapsed, we are as steadfast in our resolve, and as sincere in our support for Ukraine, as we were a year ago.

In Scotland, there has been an heroic response from the public, from those who volunteered to help with organising aid to Ukraine to those who have raised funds and those who have opened their homes and welcomed Ukrainians into their families.

We know that there have been challenges with visas, housing, schools, health and jobs. None of that is simple to organise, but all of it is crucial. Scotland has risen to the occasion, and we will continue to do so until there is a peaceful resolution to this unjustified conflict.

How lucky we are. We can go about life normally; we have that freedom. In Ukraine, they do not. We can never forget that. There, they live in fear every day. Many have no electricity and many are separated from their families.

For many, when they wake up, the first thing that they do is check the news to see where the bombs have hit, which towns and cities have been targeted and whether their families are safe. Some, tragically, do not wake up at all.

The stark, terrible reality is that, on our own continent, war still rages, with all that goes with it—the terror and trauma, the wounded, the dying, the sorrow and the grief.

Let me end on an optimistic note. There is always hope. As Seamus Heaney writes,

“History says
Don’t hope on this side of the grave
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.”

There is always hope. We will help you win this war. Ukraine, we stand with you.

I call Sarah Boyack. You have around six minutes, Ms Boyack.


Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I refer members to my entry in the register of interests.

I also want to speak in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. It is indeed rare that all of us will support a Scottish Government motion without proposing an amendment to it. That is significant, because, as a democratic institution, we do not always agree on everything—let us just put it like that.

On 24 February 2022, Putin’s Russian forces launched an invasion of Ukraine. There are not words to describe the shock, anger and deep sadness as Ukrainians have suffered, and are suffering, the consequences of a cruel, unjustifiable attack, which the whole world witnessed. I put on record my welcome to the Ukrainian consul who has been able to join us in Parliament during this debate.

As Sir Keir Starmer said on his recent visit to Kyiv, the UK’s support for Ukraine is not party political, and a Labour Government would continue support for Ukraine.

It is true to say that Russia could end this war today by withdrawing its troops. Until that happens, we and Ukraine’s other democratic allies must continue to support Ukraine as it defends its sovereign territory. That is absolutely crucial.

This is not the only discussion of Ukraine that we have had in Parliament this week; there have been several. We had the incredibly emotional Postcards from Ukraine celebration, when it was heartening to hear the choir. It is difficult to pass on the emotion of the event. We had a round-table meeting on the risks and mitigation of human trafficking of Ukrainian refugees. We have not discussed that issue in today’s debate, but we need to acknowledge that vulnerable people who escape the horrors of war potentially face the risks of trafficking, exploitation and abuse. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has spoken about the need to support women and children, as they constitute the overwhelming majority of those who have fled Ukraine for neighbouring countries. They are vulnerable people who have escaped the horrors of war and now face the risk of trafficking, exploitation and abuse.

Like other colleagues have said, it is very rare that I stand up to agree with everything that Neil Gray says, so this is probably a first and it may be a last; I may also be agreeing with Donald Cameron for possibly the first and the last time. That is in line with the principle of standing in solidarity. The war in Ukraine has enabled us to show our compassion and humanity as an international community.

In Scotland, I am proud of the people who have become hosts to Ukrainians, the people who have volunteered for or donated to charities, the organisations that are supporting people in Ukraine, and our local authorities. Last year, representatives from the magnificent medicines to Ukraine campaign briefed MSPs. Their work is impressive. They continue the sourcing of specialist medicines, the logistical work and the safe delivery of those medicines to where they are most needed by Ukrainians who are experiencing health issues as a result of Putin’s invasion.

I also thank the Disasters Emergency Committee and all those across the UK who have given generous donations to its fantastic work delivering support to people on the front line.

I also welcome the minister’s announcement of additional funding. This is an unfolding crisis, and Scotland has a key role to play.

There are still thousands of people who hold a visa and may still come to Scotland, and there are people arriving from Ukraine every day.

We are a democracy, so I am allowed to ask our Government to go a bit further, to go a bit faster and to do more. That is one of the privileges of being in an elected democracy. You can say what you think without consequence. You do not have to worry about being locked up or about a journalist who reports you being put into jail, so let me use my voice today. There is more that we could be doing.

When we had a presentation from the Ukrainian consul at the Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee the other week, we got some incredibly helpful feedback from the front line in Scotland about the things that we could be doing better, in particular providing more support for Ukrainian displaced people with English language classes and childcare. The presentation provoked us to think about the challenges and about the vulnerability that people who have come from Ukraine feel, particularly people who now have jobs and have children in our schools but are potentially not in long-term permanent accommodation, even if it is for three years. Therefore, there is more that we could be doing to support our local authorities and the third sector organisations that have really stepped up to the plate in recent months. That is something that I think we can be utterly proud of, but I would like us to do more.

We need more long-term and, in particular, medium-term planning to support Ukrainians who have come to Scotland. Although I very much welcome the 750 available houses that the minister referred to, I would like to see all of that £50 million fund spent. I would like to see it spent across Scotland and, as an MSP for Lothian, where we have a housing crisis on top of a housing crisis, I am very keen to see that investment coming forward as soon as possible. There are still people living in temporary accommodation and we need to do much more to support them. It is an issue not just for my area of Edinburgh and the Lothians, but across Scotland. I know from talking to colleagues in Glasgow that they are quite nervous about what happens next for people leaving the cruise ship.

There is so much more that we can do. We need to make sure that we step up to the mark, because Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has left key areas of infrastructure in Ukraine absolutely decimated, so we know that those Ukrainians who have come to Scotland will need our support for the long run. We need to think, at a UK and Scottish level, about how we can plan and build long-term commercial links with Ukraine to ensure that reconstruction efforts are successful and sustainable. There will be so much more that we can do, so our warm welcome has to be backed up with actions.

As I said at the start of my contribution, we are here to stand together in solidarity and our focus has to be clear—we are here because of Putin’s actions. Yesterday, we had another important debate, on the need for a special tribunal to hold Putin, and those who have launched aggression on the people of Ukraine, to account for the estimated 65,000 registered incidents of war crimes. It was an emotional debate and an important one.

We need to continue to support Ukrainians and defend Ukraine’s identity and integrity. That means stepping up and making sure that sanctions are effectively implemented and that we send a clear message of solidarity and support. I want our UK and Scottish Governments to do more, to spend more, to give that practical daily support to Ukrainians who have come here.

You need to conclude, Ms Boyack.

Sarah Boyack

Although we do not agree on many things in this Parliament, let us agree on the motion and let us all wish for a speedy and peaceful resolution to the war that ensures Ukrainian sovereignty, democracy, independence and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders. Let us do that together.


Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western) (LD)

I rise to offer the full-throated support of Scottish Liberal Democrats for the Government’s motion, and I offer our welcome and thanks to the consul of Ukraine.

I remind members of my entry in the register of members’ interests, which shows that I am a host under the homes for Ukraine scheme. It is on that point that I commence my remarks.

Six months ago, my family opened our home to a Ukrainian design graduate. She was born in Mariupol but grew up in Donetsk. She had to flee her home nine years ago, when Russia invaded her town and destroyed her home. She had been a refugee in other parts of Ukraine ever since then, until the bombs started falling a year ago and she and her family realised that it was too late and that they had to move.

The experience has been amazing and has enriched our lives in many ways. She is still with us and will, I hope, be with us for some time to come. She has joined us at many family events. In the evenings, she sometimes reads to us messages from Sasha, her cousin, who is on the eastern front and is now deployed in a forward position around the defence of Bakhmut—anyone who is following the war will know that that is the worst place on the planet to be right now.

On weekends, she joins other Ukrainians in church halls in Edinburgh to use brown, green and white old clothes for the manufacture of camouflage netting to send to her relatives on the eastern front. Such examples remind us with visceral clarity just how easy we have it here and how close the privations of war for the people of Ukraine are. They are not just the front line for Ukraine’s territorial integrity or for securing their freedom from Putin; they are the front line for the free democracies of the west, and they deserve our thanks.

On 24 February 2022, our world shifted on its axis. Russian soldiers, tanks and instruments of war crossed the border and rolled into the sovereign territory of Ukraine. That day, newspapers carried headlines—which we hoped that we would never see again—of war in Europe.

Vladimir Putin has torn up the fabric of global security. He has sanctioned unimaginable atrocities and shattered the long peace that we had all enjoyed. He does not belong in the Kremlin; he belongs in the Hague on indictment for war crimes.

As the invasion commenced, the world watched on with bated breath. Observers and politicians alike, including Putin himself, predicted the imminent fall of Ukraine. A year on, Ukraine is still standing. Putin and, to an extent, the entire world underestimated the resolve of the Ukrainian spirit and its people’s defiance. The day after war broke out, President Zelenskyy offered a stark warning to Ukraine’s invaders when he told them:

“When you attack us, you will not see our backs, you will see our faces.”

That is the perfect encapsulation of Ukrainian resistance.

Even so, the effects of war have been deadly for Ukraine. The UN has estimated that the conflict is responsible for 18,000 civilian casualties, including more than 7,000 deaths. In September, the war hit another grim milestone, with 1,000 children having become casualties of war—nearly 500 of them have died.

One of those children was an eight-year-old boy known as Sasha. According to his parents, he was a very good boy who was always helpful and loving to his younger siblings. In the same week that the UN announced those statistics, Sasha was killed in a shelling attack at his home in southern Ukraine. Speaking to a journalist, his father said:

“I wish it would take me, not my kid.”

That is just one example of the devastation that has taken place over the past year, and it is only right that we take time to commemorate and remember the lives lost, as we are doing now.

Martin Luther King Jnr said:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

This war may have been an injustice to the people of Ukraine, but it is a threat to the peace and democracy of the world. It is therefore our duty as global citizens to do all that we can, and I am proud to say that Scotland has been doing its part.

More than 20,000 refugees have arrived in Scotland in the past year, and the people of Scotland have opened their homes and their hearts to the Ukrainian people. In my constituency, Volunteer Edinburgh has done an incredible job of meeting displaced Ukrainians arriving at the airport and co-ordinating donations, learning centres and onward travel to the Ukrainian reception hub at Gogar, which is also in my constituency.

However, we must remember that we can and should do more—we have heard some of that today. Figures that were released today show that 6,200 Ukrainians are still in temporary accommodation. They need to know what comes next once their short-term placements end. They cannot be allowed to live their lives in constant limbo, worried about what comes next.

The Government could help today by, as I asked in my intervention on the minister, extending the free bus pass scheme to include refugees on all schemes, whether they are from Ukraine, Syria or Afghanistan. It could provide comprehensive language support and identify the skills of the people arriving. That would help to match them with a job opportunity so that they could make a long-term home here if they so wished.

The vibrant stripes of blue and yellow have been emblazoned into the minds and the hearts of people around the world this past year. The colours of the Ukrainian flag represent the industry of its people, because they symbolise blue skies over corn and golden wheat fields. The flag also harbours a deeper meaning: freedom above bread. On this anniversary, the world comes together to remember everything that has been lost. We also hope that, one day soon, Ukraine will enjoy its blue skies of freedom once more.


Fiona Hyslop (Linlithgow) (SNP)

I, too, pay tribute to all those who have been injured or died in the year since the illegal Russian invasion of sovereign Ukraine, and I stand in solidarity with Ukrainians, both those who remain in Ukraine and those who have been forced to flee their homeland.

I, too, am on Russia’s banned and sanctioned list. Such is the state of the country’s intelligence, it has not realised that I ceased to be a Government minister in May 2021. However, I have been insistent and consistent in my resistance to Russia. The full-scale invasion of Ukraine may have started a year ago, but the invasion and annexation by Russia of Crimea took place in 2014, and, as the then Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, I refused diplomatic access for the Russian consulate in Edinburgh from 2014 to 2021.

In the debate, I will focus on the rights of humanity in the war, the collective European response and longer-term resilience issues.

Mahatma Gandhi said:

“A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.”

Those words are true of the people of Ukraine.

In an eloquent speech last night on the need for a tribunal on Russia’s war crimes against humanity, Jenni Minto reminded us that, in times of war, aggressors deliberately destroy culture and cultural assets in order to destroy people’s soul and erase them from the memory and mind of the world.

In an article that was published in The Guardian in December 2022, the Ukrainian Minister of Culture and Information Policy, Oleksandr Tkachenko, warned that Russia is trying to destroy Ukraine’s culture. The Ministry of Culture and Information Policy in Ukraine has reported that Russian forces have severely damaged or destroyed about 1,500 objects of cultural heritage and infrastructure. Ukrainian cultural leaders spoke of that at the Edinburgh international culture summit, which was held in the Parliament last year. I urge the Scottish Government to do what it can to support the culture—the soul—of the people of Ukraine.

Conflict is not limited to physical attacks, and the impacts of the war on women and girls make that clear. UN Women has reported that food insecurity among women-led households in Ukraine has increased, that many school-aged girls are being forced to drop out of school and that instances of gender-based violence have increased.

Despite those harsh challenges, women have been central to the war effort, with women making up 22 per cent of the Ukrainian armed forces and with some fighting on the front line.

Women also play an important role in protecting families fleeing the fighting. The first lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, has launched a foundation that focuses on rebuilding the human capital of Ukraine and helping the people of Ukraine to build a future in their native country.

The people of Ukraine have shown immense strength in the face of this attack on their country. However, they need the world to not just condemn Russia but prosecute it. Last week, while speaking at the Munich Security Conference, the US Vice-President, Kamala Harris, announced the US formal determination that Russia has committed crimes against humanity.

In September 2022, UN-appointed independent human rights investigators found that war crimes had been committed in this conflict. Evidence was reported of some of the most heinous acts, including executions, torture and sexual violence. Only last week, members of the European Parliament, in co-operation with Ukraine and the international community, pushed for the creation of a special international tribunal to prosecute Russian leadership. It is no longer enough to condemn. We must act, as one international community, to hold Russia to account for the awful crimes that it has committed during this war.

I recognise the swift actions of the UK Government in providing military equipment. What has been remarkable over the course of the conflict has been the united and unwavering show of support from the European Union and NATO to the people of Ukraine, which Putin did not anticipate. He had calculated, in a strategic blunder, that they would divide and let him have a swift victory. Military diplomacy by Europe has never been easy, but, however awkward it can seem, it is working. However, we must go further. Internationally, we have seen sanctions against Russia, humanitarian and military support, and a commitment to support refugees fleeing the war.

The importance of the united, strong and clear support for Ukraine was powerfully recognised by President Zelenskyy in his address to EU leaders in Brussels this month. At the address, the European Parliament President, Roberta Metsola, said to President Zelenskyy:

“We understand that you are fighting not only for your values, but for ours”.

The war in Ukraine has also highlighted the need for many in Europe to end reliance on Russian fossil fuels. The Versailles declaration of March 2022 marked the agreement of EU leaders to phase out the EU’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels as soon as possible. Since then, the EU has imposed a ban on Russian crude oil and petroleum products.

In the longer term, Scotland has a role to play. For many years, I advised EU capitals that a switch to green renewable energy, exported from the north of Europe to the south, would remove reliance on Russian gas, and that must now become a reality in order to provide the necessary energy security.

As we mark the one-year anniversary of the horrific war in Ukraine, let us condemn Russia and its illegal war and stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. To them, we say: although we may have no military equipment might to offer you, we have the might of our care and compassion for the Ukrainian people in our homes, and the might of belief that your culture matters and that your freedom is also our freedom.


Annie Wells (Glasgow) (Con)

In my lifetime, I did not expect to see a war in Europe like the one that we have seen in Ukraine; I do not think that any of us did.

A year ago, Russia stunned the world by invading Ukraine in a horrific act of aggression. Vladimir Putin expected to extinguish a democracy. He believed that Russian forces would quickly overwhelm Ukraine. He thought that their immense firepower would prove decisive. He thought that the spirit of the civilian population could be broken. How wrong he was.

The people of Ukraine stood up in defiance against Russia’s tyranny. They have fought so bravely for their freedom. Even in the face of horrendous atrocities, brutal violence against innocent children and wicked acts beyond the usual horrors of war, Ukrainians stood firm. They refused to give in. Their valiant example has been an inspiration. Their courage runs from the top of the country to the ordinary people who have left their normal jobs and set aside their usual lives to pick up arms to stop Putin’s army.

President Zelenskyy has quickly become a fabled wartime hero worthy of being spoken of in the same sphere as greats such as Churchill and Montgomery. As well as rallying his own people, his speeches have rallied the nations of the world to help Ukraine. He will go down in history as a bold fighter for freedom and a strong leader who knew that his people could defeat the odds.

The valour of Ukrainian fighters has been awe inspiring to watch, but the tragedy that has unfolded on their streets is truly heartbreaking. War is always tragic, but the unnecessary, unprovoked and insufferable way in which the war in Ukraine has happened makes it far worse.

People have had their lives turned upside down. They have lost loved ones. Many have been murdered. Millions have fled, and those who remain must contend with a lack of food, clean water and electricity. The devastation across the towns and cities of Ukraine is hard to even put into words. The pictures are seared into our minds.

However, the resolve and resilience of Ukraine’s people is remarkable. They do not give up. They have endured. Many have come to this country to start a new life, joining the many Ukrainians who already live in Scotland and the United Kingdom. Last year, one of those inspirational Ukrainians, Zhenya Dove, joined Scottish Conservative members at the Scottish Conservative conference, at which she delivered a powerful emotional speech. She recently told my team this:

“Many Ukrainians have been welcomed to Scotland with open arms. We are deeply thankful for the Scottish hospitality shown to Ukraine and for the kindness of your hearts.”

She continued:

“It is important to all of us—to those still in Ukraine and to millions who were forced to flee their homes, because we are united as one by our belief in a brighter future, in our victory. We carry this hope wherever we go because it’s the cornerstone of our culture. It is equally important for those who are no longer with us. For entire generations who sacrificed their lives for our freedom and the right to proudly call ourselves Ukrainians today.”

Speaking at the launch of a celebration of Ukrainian culture this evening, she will say:

“Our songs are more powerful than the roar of their sirens. Our tales are more truthful than Russian propaganda. Our music calms us during wartime and our poetry inspires us to fight on. This is how we remain unbroken and undefeatable.”

I hope that Scotland will continue being a place where Ukrainians are most welcome and I hope that the United Kingdom continues providing the outstanding support that it has given President Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine throughout this crisis.

From the outbreak of the war, the UK has been one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies. The UK Government delivered £2.3 billion of military support to Ukraine last year, which will be matched or increased this year. That included 10,800 anti-tank missiles, five air defence systems, 120 armoured vehicles, explosive drones and more than 200,000 pieces of non-lethal military equipment. The UK has also helped by providing training for 11,000 Ukrainian troops, run by around 1,050 UK service personnel. Another 20,000 Ukrainian troops are expected to be trained this year.

The UK has issued 218,500 visas to help Ukrainian civilians come to the UK, speeding up support for those fleeing the conflict. More than £1.5 billion of economic and humanitarian support has also been provided to help the Ukrainian people. That figure includes loan guarantees to keep Ukrainian public services running and around £220 million in humanitarian aid for basic necessities. I also welcome the financial support that has been given by the Scottish Government and the further £1 million that it has announced today.

The UK has also led the way with tough sanctions against the Russian regime. On top of phasing out all imports of Russian energy, the Government has imposed the largest and most severe package of sanctions that Russia has ever seen, with more than 1,400 individuals and entities sanctioned and £275 billion of assets frozen.

I am proud of the UK Government’s response and the efforts of people across Scotland who have welcomed Ukrainians into their homes and hearts. The courageous reaction from the people of Ukraine has been an incredible inspiration, but this tragic war has come at a terrible cost. We can only hope that it will end soon with a crushing defeat for Russia and Vladimir Putin.

I encourage those in the public gallery to resist the temptation to participate, including by applauding.


Bill Kidd (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)

We contribute to this debate as an act of solidarity with the people of Ukraine. That includes those living on the war front and the millions displaced abroad, thousands of whom have found refuge in Scotland. This time last year, on the eve of what would become Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, we could not have predicted the atrocious actions of the Russian army against the people of Ukraine.

Once war broke out, it quickly became clear that Putin had underestimated the strength and resolve of the Ukrainian people to fight for and maintain their sovereignty and freedom. Putin found that his forces could not force Ukraine to surrender. So, as we mark the one-year anniversary of the invasion, the war continues.

As world leaders marked the anniversary this week, we witnessed renewed commitment to Ukraine in various military and humanitarian forms, with notable support from other former Soviet countries and Russian satellite states, including the Bucharest nine. They hold special solidarity with Ukraine in maintaining their sovereignty as independent states.

Appallingly, Putin commemorated the one-year anniversary by delivering an address that displaced responsibility for his invasion of Ukraine on to the west, claiming that Russia is protecting Ukraine. While he was giving that speech, the Russian military bombed civilian areas of the city of Kherson, including a pharmacy and a nursery. Alongside that, Putin increased his rhetoric of nuclear escalation by announcing Russia’s decision to suspend participation in the new strategic arms reduction treaty. That treaty restricts the number of nuclear weapons that can be deployed on long-range missiles based on land or sea that can reach Russia or the US within 30 minutes. It also requires the mutual reporting of the number of nuclear-ready missiles.

As co-president of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, or PNND, I presented a statement to the United Nations 10th review conference. In that conference, PNND called on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, or NPT, states parties, including Russia and the US, to adopt a no-first-use nuclear weapons policy. I remain committed to that recommendation, and I reassert its increasing importance as we reach the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine.

In the relatively short history of the existence of nuclear weapons, there have been a number of occasions when the world has come too close to nuclear war. The most notable of those instances was, of course, the Cuban missile crisis. At such moments, on the brink of nuclear escalation, nuclear powers have often peered over the cliff edge of nuclear confrontation and foreseen the outcome that nobody wants. Since the outbreak of war, both nuclear powers—the US and Russia, which, together, hold 90 per cent of the world’s nuclear weapons—have articulated the position that nuclear war is an outcome that nobody wants. However, President Putin has not acted in that direction. I expect that the suspension of the new strategic arms reduction treaty is nuclear posturing. Nonetheless, it is a worrisome and significant development in Putin’s escalation of nuclear rhetoric. That said, there remains the opportunity to de-escalate inflammatory nuclear rhetoric and move back to a realistic negotiating table at which nuclear weapons and the merits of a no-first-use policy can be discussed. That is in the best interests of countries around the world, so we must keep UN channels open for those talks to commence.

I note that the 10th NPT review conference failed to reach agreement by all parties, as Russia’s withdrawal from Ukrainian nuclear power stations was unacceptable to Russian diplomats. I have suggested to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs at the UN the idea of blue helmets being positioned in Ukraine to create a safety zone around nuclear power stations.

Unfortunately, there are indications of the possible strategic escalation of conventional war. Putin’s address on Tuesday doubled down on attempts to legitimise expansionist action. This week, it was announced that the Kremlin revoked a 2012 decree that committed Russia to seek to resolve the separatist issues of Transnistria on the basis of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the republic of Moldova. That sounds incredibly similar to the Kremlin’s attitude to Crimea before the 2014 coup and the annexation of that area. The Kremlin went on to explain that revocation of its commitment to Moldova’s sovereignty is

“to ensure the national interests of”


“in connection with profound changes taking place in international relations.”

On top of that, Russia is holding joint naval exercises with China and South Africa in the south Indian Ocean. China has stated its intent to help Russia to bring the war to an end through diplomatic routes. The timing of those joint naval exercises with the one-year anniversary makes the assertion difficult to believe. It is in that context that our continued affirmation and support for Ukraine must be as rock solid as it can be.

On Tuesday evening, the cross-party group on human trafficking and UN House Scotland hosted a round-table discussion in which how we can best protect Ukrainians from exploitation was considered, given the vulnerability of displaced Ukrainian refugees. There was a powerful statement by a displaced social work lecturer, Kate Bucho, who insightfully told us about how freedom is fundamental to the Ukrainian people. She referred to the slogan of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution of dignity: “Freedom is our religion.”

We cannot give up on Ukraine now; rather, we must strengthen our resolve to help it in all ways possible and protect the fundamental right to a people’s sovereignty, freedom and dignity.


Carol Mochan (South Scotland) (Lab)

I begin by expressing my sincere condolences to, and solidarity with, the families of all those who have died or have been gravely injured in this senseless war. Most of us in the chamber are fortunate enough to have never had to experience such brutality and horror, so anything that I describe can come only from a position of utmost respect for what those people have been through.

No one should have to witness those atrocities or lose loved ones in the prime of their life, many of whom, I am afraid to say, are children. I cannot imagine the horrors of being a parent or grandparent when the bombs are raining down from above. It is truly despicable and we must find a resolution that ends the conflict as soon as possible.

Like many others, I had hoped that the days of all-out war in Europe were behind us. That was a naive hope, perhaps, and one that we now might not realise for generations to come. However, my hopes are not reality, and people who are in desperate need are asking for our help. I cannot cower from that responsibility and turn my back. After all, the freedom of our country was in part secured due to the assistance of others, many of whom laid down their lives to protect us. Ukraine is simply asking for resources and assistance. We have the moral duty to respond.

We must not forget that there were far too many who were complacent about the threat presented by Russia’s invasion of the Crimean peninsula back in 2014, believing that it would be limited and contained, that it would never cause us any problems and that, perhaps most hopefully, it would not lead to further bloodshed. Sadly, and perhaps inevitably, that has not been the case, and we cannot imagine that Russia will stop now. That would go against the most common sense.

We have learned a lot since 2014 about the intentions of Putin and those who support him. Unfortunately, at times, the UK and its allies have allowed themselves to be outmanoeuvred by him, perhaps as a consequence of our having a Prime Minister too often obsessed with goings-on at Downing Street or in their own party. The point is that we cannot allow that to happen again.

I have long opposed foreign intervention and the march to war. Whether it be in Iraq or Afghanistan, illegal and knee-jerk wars must be opposed when launched from home or elsewhere. It is clear that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine meets that criterion, and that is why I stand with the Ukrainians in their fight against tyranny.

Trade unionists and charities across Ukraine are often the best sources of reasoned opinion in any debate. They have called for us to assist those fighting Russia on the front line, and I believe that we must commit ourselves to doing so. I cannot pretend to be a military expert by any means, but if those on the ground are so clearly telling us that they need particular equipment in order to protect towns, villages, and cities from attack, we must take that seriously and heed their call.

We must also continue to offer asylum and assistance to those fleeing from the war and offer a stable and nourishing home for those who are already here. There are many Ukrainian refugees in my region and across Scotland who could not have imagined only a year ago that they would end up somewhere such as Dalmellington or Kilmarnock. But they are here, and they have been welcomed, and I hope that they can build a life here for as long as they wish to.

I can barely begin to imagine what it must have been like for them or the worries that they must have had day after day. They must continue to be a primary focus for the Scottish Parliament during a time when far too many other issues are dominating the headlines that, frankly, if we think about it, are of little importance in comparison.

I commend the motion and thank Neil Gray for bringing it to the Parliament. I offer my full support and am committed to supporting the people of Ukraine. Their fight is our fight. We must strive for peace, and we cannot achieve that by allowing Ukraine to fall into the hands of a dictator such as Putin.


Clare Adamson (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)

No one in the chamber wanted to mark this milestone. It is one year since Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukrainian sovereignty. Although that anniversary is testament to the resilience of the Ukrainian people in the face of unprovoked barbarism, we wish we could be marking the end of the conflict.

I have spoken many times on Ukraine in this Parliament, most recently in 2018, when we marked Holodomor remembrance day with a collective reflection in the chamber on the Holodomor genocide.

I thank my colleague Jenni Minto for bringing to the chamber last night her important members’ business debate on the special tribunal on Russian aggression in Ukraine. I hope that, when that tribunal is held, we will revisit the Holodomor and that the UK will identify it as a genocide, as many countries, including Canada, have done.

The Holodomor was a systematic man-made famine that was perpetrated by the Stalinist regime in an attempt to crush Ukrainian identity and erase a community of people that was perceived as a threat to Soviet rule, but the Ukrainian people endured, in the face of that most extreme oppression, and it is no surprise that, for the past year, they have resisted Putin.

I recall that, when war broke out last year, I spoke to Phillips O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St Andrews. He was probably a lone voice in saying that, in his view, it would be a war of attrition as the Ukrainian people would resist and the conflict would be drawn out. He has been proved right, and we have had to adjust our response from one that mainly involves short-term and immediate humanitarian support to one that involves long-term support.

The supersponsor scheme has supplied a much-needed route to sanctuary for tens of thousands of vulnerable people. More than 23,300 Ukrainians have arrived in Scotland. The UK Government’s military support for Ukraine has been considerable, but I reiterate calls for its humanitarian support to be sustained. The devolved and local administrations need to have year-2 funding, not the reduced tariff that we saw in January. We need more support for the Ukrainians we are supporting in this country.

Last summer, I was privileged to host the Ukraine culture leadership dialogue at the Edinburgh International Culture Summit. The event brought together political and cultural leaders from countries that wish to strengthen Ukraine’s international standing and support Ukrainian cultural institutions at this time.

This week, I attended the very moving “Postcards from Ukraine” event in the Parliament. The display drove home the reality that Ukrainians are facing. As a picture paints a thousand words, I have brought some of those postcards to the chamber—I acknowledge that this breaks the prop rule, Presiding Officer. We saw images of the Kostiantynivka mosque, the Church of the Ascension of the Lord, Kharkiv National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre and even the memorial to the victims of totalitarianism. It was moving and profound, and I urge everyone to see it.

I also urge people to look to the “Salute Ukraine!” concert in the Usher Hall on Sunday night, which brings together Scotland’s culture and that of the Ukrainian people in support of their challenges at this time.

I have been fortunate to connect with Ukrainians in my Motherwell and Wishaw constituency. Our community has shown its spirit, and the Ukrainian families should know that they are welcome. Due to my committee roles, I have also made links with some of the people on the ship at Leith. The importance of those friendships and cultural links cannot be overstated. The cultural connections are essential expressions of our country’s solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

I thank the Presiding Officer for her on-going work to ensure that the Parliament stands in unity with Ukraine. Oberig’s stirring rendition of the Ukrainian national anthem in our Parliament was a timely reminder of their resolve in the face of oppression.

A few weeks ago at Murrayfield, I was pretty moved by my own national anthem, but I will never forget the atmosphere in our Parliament the other evening when that beautiful choir sang their cultural folk songs and, specifically, their national anthem. When I reflect on the words of that national anthem, I think that it expresses everything that we need to know about the people of Ukraine.

“Ukraine’s glory has not yet perished, nor her freedom,
Upon us, brother Ukrainians, fate shall smile once more.
Our enemies will vanish like dew in the morning sun,
And we too shall rule, brothers, in a free land of our own.”

Slava Ukraini!

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Thank you, Ms Adamson. I think that we can suspend the rule on props just this once.

I call Meghan Gallacher, to be followed by Ross Greer. You have around six minutes, Ms Gallacher.


Meghan Gallacher (Central Scotland) (Con)

Tomorrow marks a very sombre occasion. It is exactly one year since the invasion of Ukraine began. The twenty-fourth of February 2022 has become a date that will live in infamy. On that day, we first became aware of the tragedy that was unfolding in Europe. News of the invasion was instantly beamed across our television stations, radio airwaves and social media channels.

The shocking way in which wars are reported in our era makes the reality to which we all bear witness very real and accessible. Even so, the decision that was taken by Vladimir Putin to declare war on Ukraine sent shock waves throughout the world. Putin’s remarks were carefully orchestrated and stage managed from Moscow with the sole intention of usurping large swathes of Ukrainian territory. It was a deliberate action that has dangerous consequences for the general peace and security of Europe.

We all know that war comes with a very real human cost. I was roughly six months pregnant when I turned on the news to see a wounded pregnant woman being carried on a stretcher. The maternity hospital in Mariupol had been bombed. The wounded woman held on to her bloodied left abdomen as emergency workers carried her through the rubble. I watched on in horror as videos showed the devastation that was caused by the bombs, and all I could think about was the women and newborn babies who were in the building at the moment that the hospital was attacked. I later learned that the woman who was carried through the rubble was taken to another hospital, where the doctors tried to save her and her baby; however, neither of them made it.

The Russian ministry of defence claimed that the bombing of the hospital was justified by the presence of Ukrainian armed forces. Bombing innocent women and children can never be justified. It was a war crime, and they knew it. Even now, I cannot get out of my mind the image of that woman holding her unborn baby or the fact that their lives were cruelly ended that day. I do not think that many of us will ever truly understand the horror of the Ukraine war.

As my party’s spokesperson for children and young people, it would be remiss of me not to mention the devastating impact that the war is having on the lives of Ukrainian children. A recent report in The Daily Telegraph highlighted the horrendous reality for those attending school in Ukraine. More than 4.7 million children are enrolled to attend lessons. Those lessons are interrupted by air raid sirens instead of school bells; by power outages; and by fear and trauma instead of safety and learning. It cannot be right that those young people are seeing that as their new normal when it comes to their education and their lives.

Even more concerning is the news that has recently come out from a Yale University report, which has indicated that more than 6,000 Ukrainian children are being sent to camps that are specifically designed to expose them to Russian propaganda and are orchestrating forced adoptions into Russian families. In fact, Ukraine’s national information bureau claims that the number of children who have been deported to Russia could be more than 16,000. That is abhorrent. The removal of protected people is prohibited under article 49 of the fourth Geneva convention. Furthermore, under article 50, it is prohibited to change the personal circumstances of any child, including their nationality.

We simply cannot allow Russian aggression to define a new normality for the experiences of Ukrainian children. I therefore hope that members of this Parliament and our colleagues at Westminster and across other devolved Governments will condemn that practice in the strongest possible terms. Ukrainian children must not be forcibly removed from their families.

Just as in relation to the story that I shared earlier, it is important that we pause and reflect that almost 1,000 Ukrainian children have been killed or injured because of the war. That is a travesty, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost a child during the conflict.

By all accounts, the conflict is beginning to pick up pace again as we move out of Ukraine’s harsh winter months. We must continue to do all that we can to support the people of Ukraine as they continue to defend their freedoms.

President Zelenskyy has stated:

“The United Kingdom is marching with us towards the most important victory of our lifetime. It will be a victory over the very idea of war.”

What a wonderful concept that would be for us all to embrace—a world without suffering; a world without conflict; a world where the children of tomorrow will not come to accept the ravages of war as being their new normality. As our most famous wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, said,

“The salvation of the common people of every race and every land from war and servitude must be established on solid foundations”.

That is an outcome that we can all hope and pray for.


Ross Greer (West Scotland) (Green)

When we came together for an emergency debate a year ago tomorrow, a 40-mile-long convoy of Russian troops had crossed the Belarusian border and was headed for Kyiv. As we spoke in the debate, Hostomel airport, just outside the city, was under attack by Russian airborne troops. It was abundantly clear to all of us that the Ukrainian capital and Government could fall in a matter of days.

We watched the footage and saw the photos of the residents of Kyiv—civilians—preparing to fight a desperate last stand with homemade Molotov cocktails against one of the largest militaries on earth. Eighteen-year-old high school students were being handed rifles and given hasty instructions on how to defend the neighbourhoods that they had grown up in. President Zelenskyy was being offered evacuation by the Americans, with the prospect of setting up a Government in exile. His answer was that he needed ammunition, not a ride.

The weeks that followed were horrific, but Kyiv did not fall, that massive Russian convoy collapsed and retreated, and it became clear that Putin’s fantasies of a swift victory would not be realised. As the Russians withdrew, the horrors that they had inflicted on Ukrainian civilians became clear.

The mayor of Hostomel, Yuri Prylypko, was murdered by Russian soldiers while delivering food and medicine to residents. His body was then booby-trapped, almost killing the priest who came to bury him.

In Bucha, north of Kyiv, in Izyum, in the east, and in other towns across liberated areas, torture chambers and mass graves have been discovered. In still-occupied Skadovsk, a local nurse, Tetiana Mudrenko, was executed by hanging in the town square by collaborators. Her crime was telling the Russian occupiers that Skadovsk was, and would remain, part of Ukraine.

The past year has been horrific for the people of Ukraine. They have endured trauma that we can scarcely imagine, but they have not given in. The Kremlin’s plan was for Ukrainian independence to end in 2022 after a three-day invasion. That plan failed. It failed at Hostomel airport, where 300 Ukrainian national guardsmen routed Putin’s elite airborne troops. It failed in Kherson, from where we saw the amazing footage, last November, of Ukrainian soldiers being greeted by cheering, crying crowds as they re-entered the city. And it failed in Mariupol, a city almost completely destroyed and still under Russian occupation today but whose defenders fought one of the most effective defensive operations in modern urban warfare. Without any chance of winning that battle, Ukrainian soldiers and police officers fought on for nearly three months, making their final stand at the Azovstal steel plant. That effort held up Russian divisions many times their size and undoubtedly saved other towns and cities across the south from a similar fate.

The Ukrainian defenders at Mariupol included the Azov Battalion, which I mentioned in my contribution this time last year. The Azov Battalion was founded by neo-Nazis and, although it is a very different organisation years after having been integrated into the Ukrainian army, there is still a fascist presence. It is uncomfortable to see soldiers of a nation whose struggle we absolutely support giving interviews with western media while wearing fascist iconography such as the black sun. I am glad that NATO removed its promotional photo of a Ukrainian soldier whose uniform prominently featured that icon.

That is not remotely close to being the most important issue in this war, and raising it should not be seen for a second as a lack of support for Ukraine’s struggle. As somebody who is on the Kremlin’s sanctions list, I hope that no one would accuse me of that. However, as a key supporter of Ukraine, the UK has a responsibility to speak some truth to our ally, especially when Russia is pushing the utterly disingenuous nonsense of neo-Nazi influence as justification for its wicked invasion. I hope that no one here would tolerate British soldiers wearing such iconography, so we should help those whom we are arming to similarly make it clear that it is unacceptable for their own troops.

Nonsense claims about the influence of the Azov Battalion are being used by Putin’s useful idiots here and elsewhere to undermine public support for Ukraine. Given how long this war is sadly likely to last, we cannot give an inch to those who are seeking to undermine our solidarity. Those same useful idiots often disingenuously claim that some kind of compromise needs to be reached, pretending that their only interest is in a peaceful end to the war. What would such a compromise look like? Compromise implies giving Russia something that it did not have a year ago—something that it could walk away with. Ukrainians have, rightly, made it clear that they will not cede an inch of their territory to an invading power. What right do outside players have to tell Ukrainian citizens that the price of peace is their continuing to live under an occupying force that tortures and massacres them and that hangs civilian protesters in town squares? Peace is the absence of violence and the presence of justice. Ukrainians will have neither of those things while they live under Russian occupation.

Beyond supplying the equipment needed by Ukraine’s armed forces—which Scottish Greens support—European nations must step up our sanctions efforts and dramatically speed up our transition away from fossil fuels, thereby robbing Putin of the geopolitical weapon that he has wielded for 20 years. The UK might have sourced only a small fraction of its gas from Russia before this war, but companies here have played a key role in supporting Russia’s oil and gas sector. I hope that other members were as horrified as I was by the revelation that Scottish-based Baker Hughes continued to ship equipment to Russia as late as June 2022—months after the war began. I welcome the Deputy First Minister’s robust response to my request that the Scottish Government withhold grant support from a company that was still contributing, however indirectly, to the Russian war machine.

The people of Scotland should be proud of the solidarity that has been shown to our Ukrainian friends. We have welcomed a number of Ukrainian refugees that is far in excess of what our share of the UK population would indicate. Huge sums of money and tonnes of supplies have been collected here. The Scottish Government is straining its limited powers in that area to make the sanctions and economic pressure on Russia as effective as possible.

It is easy for us to take freedom for granted, because there has been no serious threat to our own, here, for decades. However, 30 years after the end of the cold war and the start of what was then claimed by some to be the irreversible forward march of democracy, we can see on our own continent how fragile freedom really is. However peripheral our role is, history will judge all of us on what we did to defend freedom in Ukraine. This afternoon, we will unanimously declare—once again—that Scotland’s role is to stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and to do all that is within our power to aid their victory. Slava Ukraini!


Paul O’Kane (West Scotland) (Lab)

It is difficult to comprehend that a year has passed since Russia launched its illegal war of aggression in Ukraine. We will all remember that day and our sense of outrage and deep worry for the people of Ukraine, but also the unity of purpose as we gathered in the chamber to offer them our solidarity. I join colleagues in paying tribute to that sense of unity across the Parliament and to the work of the minister and the cabinet secretary, which has helped to foster it.

We mourn those who have lost their lives, and we pray for all those who have been victims in Russia’s campaign of brutal and indiscriminate attacks. We have all seen evidence of the atrocities that have been committed by the barbaric Russian regime in towns and cities across Ukraine as it has indiscriminately bombed civilians and attacked Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. There is a clear sense of anger and injustice about what has been happening to Ukraine and its people, alongside a sense of outrage at Russia’s decision to provoke a war that is an unjustifiable act of aggression.

In Scotland, we have all witnessed generous acts of solidarity as our villages and towns have rallied to support Ukraine. In March 2022, in the early days of the war, the Deanston bakery on the south side of Glasgow, which is owned by Ukrainian baker Yuriy Kachak, organised a bake sale to raise funds to support people in his homeland. The response was overwhelming. People travelled from across the west of Scotland and formed a queue that snaked around the blocks of tenement flats as they willingly waited for more than an hour to donate and show their support for Ukraine. Yuriy raised a staggering total of £25,000 from that bake sale, and funds raised from a JustGiving page started by the bakery increased it to more than £36,000. That amount was more than doubled by an incredibly generous anonymous donation that brought the total amount raised to £72,451, all of which was donated to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Ukraine humanitarian appeal.

That example is reflective of the people of Scotland’s response to the early days of the war. They felt powerless to stop the atrocities that were being committed by Russia, but they wanted to do something—anything—to express their solidarity and provide meaningful support to the people of Ukraine.

Since the onset of Russia’s war of aggression, Scotland has welcomed more than 20,000 Ukrainian people through the supersponsor and homes for Ukraine schemes. It is right that Scotland should remain their home for as long as they need or wish to live here, because the war has altered their lives irreversibly.

That is why we must help to provide displaced Ukrainians with stability and security and allow them to make Scotland a safe haven and a place that they can truly call home. In my region, in the west of Scotland, we have been pleased to welcome Ukrainian people to our communities. Indeed, hundreds of people are living on the cruise ship MS Ambition, which is berthed at King George V dock, in Renfrew. That has provided much needed safety but, ultimately, a cruise ship must be only a temporary solution; it does not provide the security of tenure that people require.

As we have heard, it is imperative that the Government devises a longer-term strategy for housing displaced people from Ukraine, because it will give them certainty about their future and the opportunity to truly root their lives here, in Scotland, if they wish to do so. That means the Scottish Government providing necessary funding to local government to allow it to meet the needs of the Ukrainian diaspora population.

Ukrainians have become integral members of our communities, and they are now our neighbours and friends. I want to share a few examples of how they have been welcomed in the communities that I represent. In East Renfrewshire, the Park parish church in Giffnock opened its doors as a hub for newly settled Ukrainian families, providing free face-to-face English lessons and access to support services that have allowed families to integrate more easily into the local community. In Inverclyde, pupils at Clydeview academy, in Gourock, organised a variety of fundraising activities as they aimed to provide Ukrainian refugees who had newly arrived in Inverclyde with bespoke welcome packs to make them feel at home in the area and telling them something about the community and Inverclyde’s rich history of welcoming people fleeing war and persecution.

As the war in Ukraine enters its second year, it is important to state that the issue is so much bigger and more important than party politics, as we have seen across the chamber today. That is why Labour has supported the UK Government’s approach every step of the way and will continue to work constructively with both of our Governments at the UK level and here, in Scotland, to maximise the resources and support that we provide to Ukraine. Like my colleagues, I was proud to see Keir Starmer visit Kyiv last week to express that solidarity and show our willingness to continue to support the people of Ukraine and defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity.

I was heartened to hear Donald Cameron quote the great Seamus Heaney in his contribution. I offer members two further quotations today. Seamus Heaney wrote:

“If you have the words, there’s always a chance that you’ll find the way.”

I hope that our words today in the Scottish Parliament have been helpful to the people of Ukraine and have shown that, together, we will work to find a way through this. Heaney also wrote, in “Beowulf”:

“Anyone with gumption and a sharp mind will take the measure of two things: what’s said and what’s done.”

That could apply perfectly to President Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine. We are in awe of their words and their actions. Now, may our actions match our words. Victory to Ukraine!


Bob Doris (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)

Russia’s unprovoked and illegal war on Ukraine seemed to be unthinkable just over a year ago. Sabre rattling and rhetoric from Putin has been turned into a brutal and savage war being waged on the people of Ukraine. I suppose that hindsight is a wonderful thing. Given Russian actions in the Crimea and elsewhere in the world, perhaps we should never have been surprised. There was a naivety there, perhaps. Russia has had no thoughts for the human cost or for the pain, suffering, destruction and death that it has inflicted on the innocent people of Ukraine, or indeed for the families in Russia whose sons are coming back in body bags. It has no respect for Ukraine’s territorial integrity or its sovereignty, and no consideration of the potential destabilising impact on the entire world.

I offer my solidarity to the people of Ukraine. Solidarity is just a word if there is no demonstration of that solidarity but, as we have heard from members across the chamber today, people have opened their homes to Ukrainian families and demonstrated that solidarity here in Scotland. Fundraising and humanitarian support, offered by ordinary Scots, as well as financial support from the Scottish Government and the practical efforts of all public bodies and agencies—such as councils, housing associations and the national health service—have demonstrated that solidarity.

Now that so many Ukrainians have made a home—at least for the time being and for as long as they wish—in Scotland, we must always make sure that solidarity remains not just a slogan but a tangible part of our deeds every day. I am confident that that will absolutely remain the case.

Let me provide some local examples. In his opening speech, the minister mentioned young people going to schools in Scotland and making a success of that, and I have many such examples in Glasgow and in my constituency. I have heard many positive stories about those young people being assets to the schools and communities in which they now live.

I was speaking to Mr Stone, the headteacher of St Roch’s secondary school in my constituency. Pupils, staff and the wider community of St Roch’s in the Garngad—an area that, in some ways, has been forged by immigrants and immigration—have done a wonderful job of making the young people from Ukraine warmly welcome. They are offering young people quality educational opportunities. There are around 20 Ukrainian students at that school.

Most of those students have accommodation in communities, but two senior school students currently reside on MS Ambition. They are embedded in that school community and have seized the opportunities that are open to them. In the months ahead, I understand that they will sit Scottish Qualifications Authority exams, but they face the disruption of being rehoused from MS Ambition just as they prepare for and sit those exams. It is wholly unclear where they will end up, although I am sure that much good work is taking place to do the best that we can for their families. I very much hope that the families secure suitable accommodation in Glasgow or nearby enough that both students can continue their studies at St Roch’s—with minimum disruption to their exams—and retain the friendships and relationships that they have forged. That will be challenging, but we must absolutely try. I have contacted the relevant authorities and corresponded with the minister about that. I hope that such cases will be looked at sympathetically, so that the two students can stay at St Roch’s and maintain the friendships that they have forged, and we can build that solidarity.

The other day, I met a gentleman whom I will not name. He stays on MS Ambition with his wife and child, and I met him by accident, when he was trying to contact a local housing association, which is coincidentally located beside my office. He had found a job at a local business and had been working there for some time and wished to ensure that he could retain that job when he was rehoused from MS Ambition. The gentleman was simply trying to secure a local tenancy, and I have no doubt that securing such a tenancy would be of as much benefit to the business that employs him as it would be to him and his family. I have written a letter to the relevant authorities to offer support for that gentleman and his family.

I mention those two very local examples this afternoon because solidarity is not just about the international context and the big, sweeping things that we can do as Parliaments and nations to show solidarity on the international stage. It is also about day-to-day solidarity for those who, because of adversity, have made Scotland their home. Whether those are the young people who have welcomed Ukrainian students into their community, the people who have fundraised or opened up their homes, the politicians across the parties in this Parliament, or the wider Scottish population, the people of Ukraine have our hearts and solidarity. Slava Ukraini!

We move to closing speeches, and I call Foysol Choudhury to wind up the debate on behalf of Scottish Labour.


Foysol Choudhury (Lothian) (Lab)

As other members have done, I express a warm welcome to the Ukrainian consul, who joins us in Parliament.

Today, the Parliament has come together to stand in solidarity with Ukraine. I echo my colleagues’ dismay over the innocent lives that have been lost in the unjustified war, as well as their appreciation of the courage and resolve that the people of Ukraine have shown. Over the past year of this illegal war, we have witnessed barbaric aggression, and Putin has made it clear in the past few days that there is no end on the horizon.

We must remain steadfast in our support for Ukraine. As my colleagues have highlighted, we must continue to provide defensive military support to Ukraine and continue to increase economic and diplomatic pressure. As Sarah Boyack noted, sanctions are still crucial to putting pressure on the Russian regime.

We must make it clear that Scotland will continue to support diplomatic means to end the war. Putin must feel the cost of the continued aggression against a sovereign nation. Still, we must remember the goal of de-escalation. The Russian regime’s aggression began this war; we must support any diplomatic means possible to end it.

Solidarity means commitment to Ukraine. We must remember that our efforts are first and foremost for the innocent people affected by Putin’s war in Ukraine. Continued support must be given to those who have been, and continue to be, displaced by the war. As Sarah Boyack rightly said, we must take measures to ensure the safety of all refugees in Scotland and ensure that they are protected against forces, such as people traffickers, that might abuse the crisis.

Ukrainian people must have a safe home here in Scotland. I express my thanks to the minister, Neil Gray, for keeping us all updated on the Scottish Government’s efforts to house displaced Ukrainians. I note the minister’s comments about local authorities working with the Scottish Government on plans for the long-term housing and resettlement of Ukrainian refugees.

The local authority in Edinburgh has previously approached me on the topic of support from the Scottish Government. I hope that the Scottish Government can continue to work in partnership with local authorities to show solidarity with Ukraine by housing as many Ukrainian people as possible.

As my colleague Donald Cameron mentioned, we need to be prepared with a long-term strategy to house Ukrainian refugees and support their integration into our society. Both the MS Ambition in Glasgow and the MS Victoria here in Edinburgh are set to disembark in the coming months. They are currently home to around 2,200 Ukrainian refugees. Neither Glasgow nor Edinburgh has the spare housing capacity to accommodate them, so there are fears that they will have to be housed elsewhere.

Many of those individuals have spent almost a year living on those ships. They have built relationships, communities and lives in Glasgow and Edinburgh. It is possible that with the Ukraine longer-term resettlement fund, those individuals might now be further displaced to an unknown place in Scotland. A long-term housing strategy for those individuals is essential—one that provides support to protect the mental health of Ukrainian refugees who have been through trauma that most of us can only imagine.

They need to be able to put down roots, their children need to go to school, and they should be able to build a life here and call Scotland their home for as long as they need to. We would welcome a long-term strategy for the thousands of refugees who are likely to remain in Scotland for at least the next year, and we should be prepared to house them for much longer if Putin’s war continues.

That is how we can continue to show solidarity and support to Ukraine, one year on from the beginning of the war.

I call Sharon Dowey to wind up on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives.


Sharon Dowey (South Scotland) (Con)

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I also welcome the Ukrainian consul to the chamber. I am pleased to bring the debate to a close on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives.

It has been almost a year since Ukraine was forced to fight to protect its sovereignty, territorial integrity and freedom against the Russian aggressors. Our television screens have been flooded with images of the horrors since the very beginning. There were images of a bombed theatre in Mariupol, where hundreds of children were sheltering, which was attacked despite a clear sign warning that there were children inside. There were images of a missile attack at a rail station in Kramatorsk, where thousands of women and children were waiting to flee the Russian invasion. There were the horrific scenes of civilian carnage and mass graves, and reports of rape and torture, from towns such as Bucha, Chernihiv and Sumy. All those scenes are still fresh in our memories.

Ukraine was forced into a war that it did not choose. Despite these tragic events, the Ukrainian people, led by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, have displayed unbelievable levels of courage. I stand here today to reiterate my support for the heroic people of Ukraine.

I know that the road has not been easy, but I also know that Ukraine's spirit and determination have not wavered and that it will continue to fight for its freedom. Ukraine’s fight is a just fight. Ukraine has the right to defend itself against foreign aggression, and the international community stands firmly with it in its efforts to do so.

The Russian President warned us away from involvement in Ukraine on the eve of the invasion. The international response denied Vladimir Putin what he wanted. Humanitarian aid continues to support the civilian population that has been suffering, and military assistance has allowed the Ukrainian military to repel Russian aggressors on multiple fronts.

Along with the United States, the United Kingdom played a leading role in driving the international response to Russia’s illegal invasion. After the US, the UK is the second-largest donor. It has committed £2.3 billion in military assistance to Ukraine in 2022, and promises to match that amount in 2023. On the ground, western high-tech military technology is making a difference. In addition, the UK is hosting operation Interflex, a training programme with the support of several allies, which aims to train 10,000 new and existing Ukrainian military personnel in just 120 days.

With military aid pouring in and sanctions spearheaded by western democracies, Russia is isolated now more than ever. That is a result of one man’s dangerous ambitions, which have cut off Russia from the rest of the world.

Ukraine’s struggle is a struggle for the rule of law, democracy and human rights. It is a struggle against aggression, tyranny and dictatorship. We must remember the sacrifices that the Ukrainian people have made in this war. Thousands of Ukrainian soldiers have died or been wounded defending their country. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been displaced, and many have lost their homes, their businesses and their loved ones.

I take this opportunity to thank the UK and Scottish Governments for collaborating on many aspects of this crisis, such as the sponsorship schemes for Ukrainian refugees fleeing a terrible war. I also thank all sponsors who have generously offered their homes during an economically difficult period for our country. Third sector organisations, charities, local authorities, universities and many more have contributed significantly to the support of the Ukrainian people.

The links between Scotland and Ukraine have a long history. Ukrainians first arrived in Scotland in the 1750s, with many studying at the universities in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Since then, we have strengthened those ties, as evidenced by Scotland’s response to the situation today.

I will highlight some of the points that have been raised by members from across the chamber.

I associate myself with the remarks of Donald Cameron, who rightly recognised the efforts of both the Scottish and UK Governments to welcome Ukrainians fleeing the war to make their home here for the time being. Whether that was through the establishment of the UK-wide homes for Ukraine scheme, or through Scotland’s supersponsor scheme, we have ensured that many Ukrainians could come to our country for as long as it is necessary.

I was pleased to hear my colleague Annie Wells quote the powerful words of the Ukrainian Scot Zhenya Dove, who said:

“Many Ukrainians have been welcomed to Scotland with open arms. We are deeply thankful for the Scottish hospitality shown to Ukraine and for the kindness of your hearts.”

My colleague Meghan Gallacher was right to highlight the horrendous reality for those attending school in Ukraine—lessons interrupted by air raid sirens instead of school bells. It is not right that young people are seeing that as their new normal.

Neil Gray mentioned that Putin’s army has invaded a country in the United Nations and he mentioned the appalling atrocities committed and the chilling comment,

“the meat grinder is working”.

He also talked about the continuing support from Scotland and I thank him for the announcement that he made about the extra funding.

Sarah Boyack said that we must support Ukraine in defence of its country and mentioned all members, on all benches, standing together as one to support the Government motion, because we all support Ukraine.

Alex Cole-Hamilton spoke about the Ukrainian family that he has opened his home to and how they now join in with family events.

Fiona Hyslop spoke of the devastation to culture, the soul of Ukraine.

Bill Kidd again mentioned the atrocious actions of the Russians, but also that they underestimated the resolve of the Ukrainian people.

Carol Mochan said what we all think—that there is a need to find an end to the conflict as soon as possible.

Clare Adamson spoke of the resilience of the Ukrainian people and of her wish to end the war.

Paul O’Kane spoke of the indiscriminate bombings of civilians and the outrage of Russia’s act of aggression. He also spoke of the work done in his area to raise funds to support Ukraine and of the local Ukrainian baker who raised a phenomenal amount of money.

Bob Doris spoke of how Russia had no thought for the human cost or the pain and suffering inflicted on the people of Ukraine.

Although she did not speak in today’s debate, I also mention Jenni Minto, who led last night’s members’ business debate on the special tribunal on Russian aggression in Ukraine. She gave a very powerful and moving speech, which I was in the chamber for. I also attended the Postcards from Ukraine event in Parliament, which included very moving images showing the vision of Ukraine before the war and what has happened since Russia invaded.

In 2023, our support for Ukraine is as strong as it has ever been. The support from Scotland, the United Kingdom, the United States and other allies is unwavering. The heroic courage, resilience and determination of the Ukrainian people to repel the Russian invaders is crucial to defeating one man’s dangerous ambitions. I repeat what I said a year ago:

“we will support you. Together, we will defeat Putin.”—[Official Report, 24 February 2022; c 86.]


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

It has been a very moving and unified debate that we have heard from all sides of the chamber, particularly redolent for me as the son of a war refugee who came to these shores 76 years ago. I begin by reflecting on the contributions of others.

First, I thought that Donald Cameron made a very powerful and moving contribution. He had very gracious words to say about the Scottish Government. I know that that cannot come easily at the best of times, but he was exceptionally gracious about the Scottish Government in general and my ministerial colleague Neil Gray in particular. That gives me the rare opportunity, in return, to praise the UK Government’s commitment to providing the weapons that are needed by Ukraine and for providing the training for Ukrainian personnel. I take the opportunity, in particular, to mention in dispatches the defence secretary and former member of the Scottish Parliament, Ben Wallace, for the role that he is playing in that.

I thank Sarah Boyack, who spoke of solidarity and praised the cross-party, cross-parliamentary agreement that we have been hearing on the issue, for her welcome for the additional support that was announced today, which is targeted at winterisation, resilience and rebuilding in Ukraine. She underlined the constructive role of Opposition in a democracy in making us go further and faster. I invite her to keep up the good work on that front, as well.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, other MSPs, Scottish Government ministers and thousands of people across Scotland are hosting Ukrainians in their homes. Mr Cole-Hamilton powerfully illustrated the human loss and the experience of Russia’s invasion, which, we should remember, did not start last year but started in 2014, with the invasion of Crimea and the Donbas region, which includes the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

I commend Fiona Hyslop’s long-standing commitment to Ukraine, as I do that of Stewart McDonald MP. Ms Hyslop and a number of us are sanctioned by the Putin regime; we wear that sanction as a badge of honour. Ms Hyslop spoke, too, of the energy security that Scotland and northern Europe could help provide to continental Europe. I hope that that is something that we can develop an understanding of, as Scotland has a lot to offer as we move forward with developing our renewables—our hydrogen potential in particular.

I would like to mention by name Annie Wells, Bill Kidd, Carol Mochan, Clare Adamson, Meghan Gallagher, Ross Greer, Paul O’Kane, Bob Doris, Foysol Choudhury and Sharon Dowey, whose contributions this afternoon have been exemplary.

If the past year has shown us anything, it has been that not only Scotland but the whole of Europe and the west is united in supporting Ukraine’s democracy, its sovereignty and its independence. It has been a year since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began. In that time, we have witnessed the brutality of that unprovoked attack on a peaceful nation. This anniversary is a chance for us to stand united, as we are, and reflect on the impact that this past year has had on the people of Ukraine.

I am pleased to see the great many events that have been organised both in this Parliament and across the country to mark the one-year anniversary. The “Postcards from Ukraine” photography exhibit, which is displayed here in the Scottish Parliament, highlights the devastating nature of the tax on both the Ukrainian people and the country’s cultural heritage.

In Scotland, we have shown our support by welcoming displaced Ukrainians into our homes and communities—they are now our friends, colleagues and neighbours. I am pleased that people have come together across Scotland to find different ways to show their support for Ukraine this week. We have seen a number of events take place across the country to mark the anniversary.

Over the past year, we have been able to show our support by providing financial and practical help from Government and through the incredible generosity in our communities, be it through charitable donations or direct contributions to communities in Ukraine and neighbouring countries.

As we look towards a Ukrainian victory, it is worth considering the opportunities of twinning between Scotland’s and Ukraine’s villages, towns and cities as we help to rebuild Ukraine in the years to come.

When the time to show our support and solidarity came, we offered it whole-heartedly. The warm Scottish welcome that we have provided has been a collective effort that we can all be proud of. I am proud that Scotland has welcomed more than 23,000 arrivals from Ukraine in the past year and that more than 19,000 have come through our supersponsor scheme.

As this ugly, full-scale war enters its second year, we cannot waiver in our commitment and instead must enhance our efforts and continue to do all that we can to support Ukraine and those people who have been displaced. The additional £1 million that we have announced today has been welcomed by all quarters in the chamber and will go directly to aid organisations that support people on the ground in Ukraine.

As part of our on-going solidarity with Ukraine in the coming weeks and months, our work to support displaced people from Ukraine settle well in Scotland will continue in earnest. Indeed, in a bid to ensure the longer-term sustainability of the supersponsor scheme, the Government initiated a full review of that scheme, the results of which were published in November last year. The interventions that the review generated ranged from clear information and support to investment in social housing, testing alternatives to short-term accommodation, such as modular housing, and actions to reduce barriers to employment and the private rental sector.

We continue to work closely with local authority matching teams to support people into longer-term accommodation. The scale of demand makes that a challenging process, and it is taking a huge collective effort to deliver it.

Sarah Boyack

Will the cabinet secretary commit to providing us with an update on the conclusions of the review, particularly on issues such as modular housing, co-ordination and delivery on the ground of safe and secure housing?

Angus Robertson

I am happy to do so. Neil Gray has already given that commitment to the committee, and I repeat it now.

As Neil Gray said in his opening remarks, in September 2022 we announced up to £50 million of capital investment to help to bring empty properties back into use. Alongside that, we continue to recruit volunteer hosts, and we have launched a campaign to secure more hosts. We will continue to do all that we can to ensure that the people from Ukraine who come to Scotland are met with a warm welcome and a package of support that allows them to integrate into our communities and build a new life here.

Our close working with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, local authorities in general and the third sector has been a key success factor, and we will continue to work in partnership to deliver integrated services that have at their heart dignity and respect for the Ukrainian people.

As we have heard, it is Scottish society and communities the length and breadth of Scotland that have the most to gain from the contributions and experience that displaced people from Ukraine have to offer. Great societies are those that embrace immigration and integration and those that encompass the diversity of humanity within their fabric. Displaced people from Ukraine have already become a mainstay in our communities and have brought with them a wealth of experience in many fields from education and academia to healthcare and business management.

I want to ensure that we do all that we can to make displaced people from Ukraine feel welcome in our communities and that we continue to recognise the contributions that they make.

I reiterate sentiments that have been offered previously on behalf of the Scottish Government. We remain clear that all Ukrainians who have made Scotland their temporary home will be welcome for as long as they need. We stand with you. Slava Ukraini. Heroiam slava.

That concludes the debate on marking one year of war against Ukraine. We move to the next item of business.