Sunday, 2 Oct 2022

Sturgeon ‘considering’ begging British Army for help after key scheme descends into chaos

Scottish referendum is 'distraction' from SNP failures says expert

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The SNP-led Government has looked at whether it needs to formally request the UK Government for “targeted military assistance” amid fears that Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion will arrive in Scotland with nowhere to go. This type of formal military request is known as a Military Aid to Civil Authorities (MACA) and allows the devolved government to request armed forces support when it is most needed. Around 1,200 refugees from Ukraine are arriving in Scotland each week but the Government is already struggling to find accommodation to house them.

Hundreds of refugees are being placed in the MS Victoria cruise ship docked at Leith in Edinburgh, alongside hotels throughout Scotland.

The Scottish Government is also now looking to hire a second cruise ship to stem the pressure on the current accommodation and would be based on the River Clyde, which runs through Glasgow.

A formal request MACA request has yet to be made to the military, but it is understood that Scottish and UK Government staff have held talks over the matter.

The latest twist comes just weeks after the Scottish Government paused the Ukraine Super Sponsor scheme with less than two days’ notice.

It launched in March with the aim of enabling Ukrainian families to move to Scotland without having to find a host family in the UK first. The Scottish Government would instead act as their sponsor.

But interest in the scheme has been much higher than anticipated after more than 20,000 refugees applied.

Before the scheme closed, some 21,000 visas were issued naming a Scottish sponsor with the SNP government initially committing to welcoming 3,000 when it launched in March.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton launched a furious attack against the SNP, claiming he had been told by aid workers in Lviv the Scottish Government were “humiliating underprepared”.

He told the Scottish Daily Express: “The last thing these vulnerable people need is to move from a warzone into an army barracks.

“This is yet another signal that the SNP-Green government wanted the praise for being seen to help without doing the preparatory work needed.

“Aid workers in Lviv told me last week that the Scottish Government were ‘humiliating underprepared’.

“We need to dramatically increase the rate at which homes and hosts are being vetted and matched with Ukrainian guests.”

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A request for military assistance would be the fourth in just 12 months after previous calls to help with the Scottish Ambulance Service, the rollout of booster Covid-19 jabs and Storm Arwen in 2021.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said they were “exploring all options to provide safe and secure accommodation” to displaced Ukrainian people seeking shelter.

They added no formal request had been made to the Ministry of Defence to help house displaced people from Ukraine as of Wednesday afternoon.

The spokesperson insisted: “The Scottish Government is continuing to explore all options to ensure that there is sufficient and safe accommodation for displaced people from Ukraine arriving in Scotland.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson confirmed no formal request for assistance had been received from the Scottish Government over the scheme.

But the UK Government department insisted it remains ready to respond to requests from civil authorities in line with established principles.”

The spokesperson said: “The Ministry of Defence has not received a formal request from the Scottish Government to provide assistance with accommodating refugees.

“Under the Military Aid to the Civil Authorities process, Defence always stands ready to respond to requests from civil authorities in line with established principles.”

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