Humanity? Sorry, but where’s the humanity in forcing refugees to live on a ferry?
FOR Ukrainian refugees fleeing war and oppression, the offer of ‘safety and sanctuary’ in Scotland must have sounded deeply attractive.
But the safe harbour many of them are likely to find is rather more literal than anticipated — hundreds of them are to be put up on a cruise ship berthed in Leith.
And the reason for the tight squeeze is simple — Scottish ministers were determined to get in on the act when their UK Government counterparts launched a scheme to accommodate Ukrainian families.
Sadly, they overestimated capacity, biting off far more than they could chew, hence the current scramble to provide shelter of some kind — even if it is far from suitable.
As the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain pointed out, not unreasonably, ‘we can’t have people from Ukraine escaping one threatening situation and going into another’.
The ‘super sponsor’ initiative north of the Border has been ‘paused’ as a result of the struggle to find homes, but on the Scottish Government website there are still hubristic boasts about how wonderful it will be, or might have been.
It states that it ‘should be understood that hosts in Scotland will be subject to a different level of person (disclosure) and property checks to people living in England’.
A bespoke scheme, then, with a distinctly Scottish flavour, with the strong implication that it will be more rigorous, and more efficient — though it didn’t quite work out as planned, assuming there was any credible planning.
People will be ‘matched via a public sector matching service to sustainable and safe accommodation that local authorities have checked in advance’.
Some Ukrainians might be forgiven for wondering how ‘sustainable’ and ‘safe’ it would be to load them onto a ferry.
Meanwhile, the First Minister has rowed back on a pledge to invite a Ukrainian refugee into her home ‘if needed’, arguing they may not want to live with her.
Her reason, or excuse, was that a refugee may not be happy with the publicity that living with her would generate, and she argued her role was to ensure Scotland gave refuge to thousands of Ukrainians rather than just ‘one person’.
Hardly the warmest of welcomes, and none of it says much for traditional Scottish hospitality — it’s a shambles, and one that could have been easily avoided.
The idea that the SNP would make a better job of organising this ambitious endeavour must have been based on scant evidence, given that almost everything it touches ends in disaster (and the ‘almost’ is an act of charity).
Charity is at the centre of this project, or should have been, but perhaps it was motivated not so much by compassion as an unrelenting desire to be seen to be doing things differently to England, or ‘Westminster’.
If so, that objective has been achieved — though not in the way intended.
But the SNP’s aim, clearly, was to plough its own furrow to bolster its argument that we can manage very well on our own, thank you, without the help of the UK Government.
As this chaos unfolds, remember that a legal fight — at your expense — is getting under way, with the doomed case for staging another referendum now in the hands of the Supreme Court in London.
Every policy decision appears to be tested on the principle of whether it advances the separatist agenda, with no opportunity missed to stir up division and underline differences, real or imagined — usually the latter.
The Scottish Census, under the auspices of Angus Robertson, the minister for the constitution, external affairs and culture, was another bid to show the rest of the UK how best to manage a complex logistical challenge — albeit a year after they had pulled off that feat for themselves, with a lot less hassle.
Using the pandemic as justification for the delay, SNP ministers insisted carrying it out at a different time to the rest of the UK would help maximise responses.
As the original deadline approached towards the end of April, Mr Robertson announced Scots would have another month to fill in the survey.
The extension cost another £9.76million on top of the £138million previously budgeted.
A second extension was announced on May 31, allowing the return of completed censuses until June 12 if ‘delayed for legitimate reasons’.
Analysis by the Taxpayers’ Alliance found the average spend per person on the national survey in Scotland was 41p, compared to 28p for last year’s poll south of the Border.
That’s despite the Scottish Census achieving only an 88 per cent uptake — short of a 94 per cent target — compared to a 97 per cent return rate in England and Wales.
Hardly an unalloyed success, given that the whole exercise could have been done last year, as part of the UK-wide Census, avoiding the extra costs, and the humiliation.
There are plenty of parallels with the mismanagement of the Ukrainian refugees, particularly on the humiliation front, but this time round there is far more at stake.
The Census row is bad enough, given that the results of the survey are used for policy-making and funding allocations — making it a crucial process, with a limited margin for error.
It’s infinitely more serious when vulnerable refugees, including women are children, are casualties of the SNP’s ham-fistedness.
Add to the Census farce any number of other botched jobs and a pattern begins to emerge — they only care about making political points, even — it seems — if the end result is embarrassing failure.
Virtue-signalling has given way to organisational mayhem, but this time the cack-handedness is somewhere beyond unforgivable.
How many of the Nationalists’ slavish supporters will turn a blind eye to the spectacle of Ukrainian refugees being herded into cramped ferry cabins?
The answer is, inevitably, that a lot of them will, as they only care about the ultimate prize of forging a new and more humane state, or that’s what they claim it would be.
But there’s not much that could be described as progressive about putting up exhausted and emotionally distressed mums and their kids in a ferry, or in unsafe flats.
The First Minister said in March that bureaucracy and red tape were slowing down the UK’s efforts to house refugees ‘when what is needed is humanity and urgent refuge for as many as possible’.
But where is the ‘humanity’ in making promises to refugees fleeing the turmoil of war that can’t be kept?
Nicola Sturgeon seized on the chance to emote about how compassionate her government is, in contrast with the supposedly malign and uncaring Tories, but as ever her promises were utterly hollow.
Soundbites, spin and pathological incompetence have prevailed once again — with desperate Ukrainian families paying a heavy price for the SNP’s avoidable blunders.
- This column appeared in the Scottish Daily Mail on July 19, 2022.
- *Follow me on Twitter: @GrahamGGrant