Scotland’s support and solidarity with the Ukrainian people, is unwavering - Shirley Anne Somerville

Saturday marks two years since the start of the war

Saturday will mark exactly two years since Putin launched Russia’s barbaric and illegal invasion of Ukraine. I, along with the whole of the Scottish Government, continue to be horrified at the scale of destruction caused. My deepest condolences go to all those who have lost loved ones in this terrible conflict.

The Scottish Government has always been clear in our firm support for Ukraine and solidarity with Ukrainian people, here and around the world. Our Super Sponsor scheme alone enabled nearly 21,000 people fleeing Ukraine to find a place of safety in the UK.

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The Ukrainian people I have met over the past two years have told me about their experiences of arriving here after the invasion. Many of them did so alone, having never set foot in Scotland before and not knowing anybody here. They didn’t know what their lives would be like when they arrived, or even where they would sleep that night.

I am deeply proud of the response of people in Scotland – who showed kindness and generosity in welcoming Ukrainian people into their communities. Their support, along with the hard work of government, local authorities, third sector organisations and charities, has helped people to begin rebuilding their lives.

Many of those who arrived in Scotland after the outbreak of war have lived here for almost two years. Our focus now is on supporting them to continue settling into communities – helping them access sustainable housing, health and wellbeing support, employment, benefits and English lessons.

We all continue to pray for a swift Ukrainian victory, however there is no clear end in sight to this terrible war. Uncertainty remains as to when those who have sought refuge from the conflict will be able to return to their home country.

We welcome the UK Government’s recent decision to extend visas, but the 18-month period falls far short of providing the stability people need to rebuild their lives, plan for their careers or make long-term accommodation decisions like buying their own homes. We will continue to advocate to the UK Government for an approach which allows people to make informed choices about their futures.

Tomorrow, I will be marking the anniversary of the invasion by attending the Intertwined Ballads concert in Edinburgh. The concert will bring together Ukrainian and Scottish culture, arts, crafts and food, and I am looking forward to meeting the talented Ukrainian artists and musicians who have made their homes in Scotland.

Over the last two years, I have enjoyed learning more about Ukraine’s unique culture – from watching traditional singing and dancing, to trying Ukrainian foods, to joining an arts and wellbeing workshop. I know many others across Scotland have had similar experiences. I have been humbled by the strength of the people I’ve met, and inspired by how their dedication to the arts, culture and traditions of their home country is ensuring Ukraine’s national identity is celebrated across Scotland.

It is at times like these that culture is more important than ever – to help us reflect, to inspire compassion, and to bring people together. As we reach another milestone in this horrendous conflict, Scotland’s support for Ukrainian sovereignty, and solidarity with the Ukrainian people, is unwavering. The connections made between our two countries – through culture, communities and families - will continue long after a Ukrainian victory.

Shirley-Anne Somerville is Scottish Government Social Justice Secretary



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