Scottish government accused of 'keeping quiet' on deal to house Ukrainians on ferry for a further five months

2 December 2022, 08:12 | Updated: 2 December 2022, 18:18

The MS Victoria (left) has been housing Ukrainian refugees in Scotland
The MS Victoria (left) has been housing Ukrainian refugees in Scotland. Picture: Alamy
Guy Stewart

By Guy Stewart

The Scottish Government has been accused of “keeping quiet” on plans to house Ukrainian refugees on a cruise ship in the country’s capital for an extra five months.

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A contract on M/S Victoria, docked in Edinburgh, was originally set to end in January 2023, but has now been extended.

Tallink, who own the ship, confirmed the move in a statement on Wednesday November 30, but no information was released by the Scottish Government until a request from an LBC reporter.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has described that as a “startling revelation”.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “That the Scottish Government have quietly extended the contract is almost a tacit admission that they have been hopelessly underprepared for the needs of the 35,000 Ukrainians that we've offered visas too.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton. Picture: Getty

“This kind of big level spending commitment really deserves more scrutiny and deserves admission within the chamber at the Scottish Parliament.

“Unfortunately, we see far too much of this with a government that dodges the light with things like this.” Mr Cole-Hamilton said this was a “new limbo” and that it wasn’t the long-term solution Ukrainian refugees deserved.

He added: “I spoke to aid workers, working in Lviv, connecting Ukrainian refugees fleeing to Scotland with homes and routes out of Ukraine, who have described [the Scottish Government] of being humiliatingly underprepared.

“They [the Scottish Government] wanted the kudos of throwing open their doors but they did none of the groundwork. 

“I don’t have a problem with us throwing open our doors, but I do have a problem with the Government not doing the groundwork. “I don’t think when these Ukrainians are fleeing unimaginable atrocities at the hands of the Russians, I don’t think they dreamed about a very crowded passenger ship.”

Nicola Sturgeon quizzed by LBC Scotland Political Editor Gina Davidson

The boat is one of two being chartered by the Scottish Government to accommodate refugees who have fled the war in Ukraine – the other being M/S Ambition in Glasgow, owned by Ambassador Cruise Line. Both are being hired as part of the same agreement. M/S Victoria, which has more than 700 cabins and can carry more than 2500 passengers, arrived in Scotland in July. 

Since then, campaigners have warned against the use of such short-term solutions and raised concerns about the health and safety of people living on board.

More than 12 million Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia invaded
More than 12 million Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia invaded. Picture: Getty

Read more: Ukrainian refugees could be facing discrimination from landlords, LBC understands

Read more: 'There will be no flood of winter refugees from Ukraine', says deputy PM

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Any extension to the MS Victoria will be communicated to Parliament and those on board once a decision has been taken.”

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