Forbes: We have not underestimated challenge of housing Ukrainians in Scotland

SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes said the Scottish Government has not underestimated the scale of the challenge to house Ukrainian arrivals as she pledged her full support for refugees.

The Finance Secretary heard from families who had taken refuge in Scotland after fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

She took her daughter of six months, Naomi, to meet with the Glasgow branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB) on Thursday at the Sikorski Polish Club.

The Scottish Government’s super sponsor scheme was paused in July due to unprecedented demand for appropriate homes for Ukrainians.

The MS Ambition, docked in Glasgow, is housing Ukrainians who have fled their homeland (Andrew Milligan/PA)
The MS Ambition, docked in Glasgow, is housing Ukrainians who have fled their homeland (Andrew Milligan/PA)

And thousands of Ukrainians living on a cruise ship in Glasgow will need to be rehomed by the end of this month when the Scottish Government’s contract for the MS Ambition vessel expires.

Approximately 1,170 people, including 420 children have been living on the ship.

A second cruise ship, the MS Victoria, docked in Edinburgh, had its contract extended by five months.

Asked if the efforts to help Ukrainians had been underestimated, she replied: “No, not at all.

“The constant refrain (from the Ukrainians here) is how grateful they are for the provision of support and how grateful they are that Scots have stood with them.”

Scottish National Party leadership election
SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes with her daughter Naomi during a visit to the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain in Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA)

She said her plan, like the Scottish Government’s, is to “ensure there is a provision of housing”.

“It was always going to be a huge mission, but it is a mission that we were up for and we’re keen to do.

“Anybody looking at the scale of the aggression in Ukraine recognises that the scale of resettling refugees is enormous.”

Ms Forbes, who became visibly emotional as women recounted their dangerous efforts to flee the warzone, also said Ukraine would have “maximum” support if she was elected first minister.

She said: “Ukraine is the single biggest geopolitical issue in Europe right now and Russian aggression is the top security challenge. It is vital that the SNP continues to give maximum political support for Ukraine.

“The impact of the war on the rest of the world, including Scotland, cannot be overstated.

“We are seeing this in terms of food prices, inflation, gas prices and the broader impact on the cost of living. All of this has an impact on people here in Scotland and the Scottish Government.”

Ms Forbes added: “My government will pull out all the stops to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom, by using all public policy and financial levers at our disposal to support Ukraine to rebuild its future as a European democracy, as well as supporting Ukrainians who are calling Scotland their home.

“I will ensure that we identify and explore further opportunities for the Scottish Government and the public sector more broadly, alongside Scotland’s private sector and civil society, to work with the Ukrainian government and policymakers to help rebuild their country, and ensure Scotland lives up to its place as a friend of Ukraine in its greatest time of need.”