Displaced people from Ukraine in Scotland – what is the long-term plan?

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On 27 September 2023, the Scottish Government published a strategy paper entitled ‘A Warm Scots Future’. The strategy, written in partnership with COSLA and the Scottish Refugee Council, “outlines the transition from an emergency response to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, to a long-term and holistic approach that supports the integration of displaced people from Ukraine.” The Warm Scots Future paper also provides an update on progress made in delivering the 16 interventions identified following a review of the Scottish Supersponsor Scheme, through which the Scottish Government took on a key role in the resettlement of displaced people from Ukraine in Scotland.

This blog summarises the Scottish Government’s longer-term strategy for Ukrainian resettlement and provides updates on the Scottish Government’s provision of accommodation for displaced people from Ukraine. Use the expandable headings, corresponding to the five strategic priorities identified in the Warm Scots Future strategy, to navigate the blog.


Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 resulted in millions of people being displaced, both within Ukraine and across Europe. By 3 October 2023, 25,701 displaced people from Ukraine had arrived in the UK with a Scottish sponsor – one of the three ways in which displaced people from Ukraine can obtain visas for the UK. The Scottish Government took on a key role in the operation of the Sponsorship Scheme by acting as a supersponsor. You can read more about these schemes in a previous SPICe blog.

The Scottish Government paused its Supersponsor Scheme in July 2022, primarily citing accommodation capacity issues. The Scottish Government then commissioned a review into the scheme, which identified 16 interventions aimed at improving the operation of the scheme alongside a list of seven criteria for reopening the scheme.

A Warm Scots Future

Support a holistic, trauma-informed and rights-based approach to long-term integration

The first strand of the Warm Scots Future strategy relates to the Scottish Government’s approach to long-term integration and emphasises the importance of employability, education, and health and wellbeing. The Warm Scots Future paper states that the Scottish Refugee Council is working with displaced people from Ukraine to increase access to good quality information and services. The paper also notes that as a quarter of arrivals with Scottish sponsors are under the age of 18, it is particularly important to address barriers to integration faced by children and young people.

The Scottish Government states that implementation of its first strategic priority, supporting a holistic, trauma-informed and rights-based approach to integration, will include learning from experiences of the resettlement of other refugee groups. The Warm Scots Future paper specifies that the Scottish Government and its partners will work to address barriers to employment, support the mental health and wellbeing of displaced people, and consider the specific needs of displaced children and young people. With regards to employment and language support, the paper notes a one-year pilot project delivered by World Jewish Relief and the British Council which will provide bespoke English language and employment support.

Reduce reliance on temporary accommodation

The Scottish Government provides accommodation for displaced people from Ukraine who arrive through the Supersponsor Scheme where required. This can be temporary accommodation (sometimes called ‘Welcome accommodation’) such as in hotel rooms or longer-term accommodation, which is available for at least 6 months. Pressure on the availability of both temporary and longer-term accommodation was identified as the main reason for the pausing of the Supersponsor Scheme in the Scottish Government’s review.

To create temporary accommodation capacity, the Scottish Government used hotel rooms and chartered two passenger ships – docked in Glasgow and Edinburgh. The ship docked in Glasgow, the M/S Ambition, provided accommodation until March 2023 and the ship docked in Edinburgh, the M/S Victoria, accommodated displaced people from Ukraine until 4 July 2023. The Scottish Government published information on the disembarkations of both ships on 14 September 2023, which included data on the immediate destination of passengers disembarking.

Of passengers disembarking the M/S Ambition since 5 January 2023:

  • 33% went into alternative temporary accommodation
  • 7% went into hosted accommodation
  • 29% went into social housing
  • 30% went into “unknown or other accommodation”.

Of passengers disembarking the M/S Victoria since 17 April 2023:

  • 72% went into alternative temporary accommodation (including 12% who had other accommodation lined up, mostly social housing, which was not yet ready at time of disembarkation)
  • 1% went into hosted accommodation
  • 3% went into social housing
  • 23% went into “unknown or other accommodation”.

The Scottish Government’s most recent data release on the Supersponsor Scheme shows that by 10 July 2023, around 3,535 people remained in temporary accommodation.

The Scottish Government states that implementation of its second strategic priority, reducing reliance on temporary accommodation, will include further changes to the provision of temporary accommodation depending on local needs and resources. It also mentions that measures need to be put in place to reduce the risk of homelessness for those leaving other forms of accommodation, including hosted accommodation.

Boost long-term, settled housing that leaves a legacy for Scotland

Accommodation for displaced people from Ukraine counts as ‘longer-term’ housing if it is available for at least six months. Longer-term accommodation can include that offered by hosts, either within their home or separately, or social rented accommodation. Displaced people from Ukraine can also access private rented housing but the Scottish Government does not collect information on people in private rented accommodation.

As part of its funding for Ukrainian resettlement, the Scottish Government made available a £50 million ‘Ukraine Longer Term Resettlement Fund’ for registered social landlords “to bring properties into use and increase the supply of housing”. According to the Warm Scots Future paper, construction for 671 homes was finished using the fund as of August 2023, with 472 tenancies in place, housing 948 displaced people from Ukraine. The paper also states that:

the Scottish Government has also widened the scope of the fund to allow different types of projects to come forward for consideration that could meet the eligibility criteria. For example, off-the-shelf purchasing, new build, site purchase and reprovisioning of properties not currently in use as social housing, where these are additional to the existing Affordable Housing Supply Programme operating in the area and can deliver homes in the timescale required.

In addition, the Warm Scots Future paper provides an update on efforts made to boost access to other types of longer-term accommodation, including private rented housing and modular housing, both of which were recommended in the review of the Supersponsor scheme.

In regard to assistance for accessing the private rented sector, the Warm Scots Future paper states that local authorities already have a variety of schemes in place to support such access, for example through deposit and furniture grants, but that eligibility criteria across these schemes vary and so not all displaced people from Ukraine in Scotland would be eligible. The paper also notes that consideration is being given to using additional £30 million from the UK Government to supplement local authority existing schemes, and that discussions with local authorities continue on a ‘Private Sector Leasing Scheme.’

The background to this funding from the UK Government is that until December 2022, local authorities received a general tariff of £10,500 from the UK Government per displaced person from Ukraine, which reduced to £5,900 per person in December 2022. As part of this change, a one-off fund of £150 million was made available to local authorities across the UK to support displaced people from Ukraine to move into their own homes and reduce the risk of homelessness. It was agreed that Scotland would receive £30 million (to reflect its higher share of displaced people from Ukraine per head of the population) and that this would be passed to local authorities by the Scottish Government. On 26 September 2023, the Scottish Government published an allocation letter for local authorities. The letter outlines allocations ranging from £88,789 for the Shetland Islands to £4,500,781 to the City of Edinburgh.

Another intervention recommended in the review relates to the use of modular housing. This is prefabricated housing produced off-site in modules, which can then be assembled on-site more quickly than traditional housing. The Warm Scots Future paper states that several related challenges have been identified and that short to medium term pilot projects have not been found to be cost-effective. However, the paper states that there remains interest in exploring such modular construction for longer term housing and that “developing a coordinated national approach is now under assessment by the Housing Review Group.”

The Scottish Government states that implementation of its third strategic priority, increasing longer-term accommodation capacity, will include maximising use of the Ukraine Longer-Term Resettlement Fund, exploring options for using modular housing for longer-term accommodation, and supporting access to the private rented sector.

Pursue clarity on routes to settlement, family reunification and repatriation

Visas for displaced people from Ukraine are valid for three years. It is unclear at present whether such individuals will be able to stay in the UK after three years and what, if any, pathways to citizenship there may be. Other resettlement programmes, for example for people from Afghanistan include a provision for indefinite leave to remain, and future paths to citizenship.

The Warm Scots Future paper states that uncertainty about future immigration status is negatively impacting the ability of displaced people from Ukraine to make decisions about their future and integrate into Scottish communities – and that this uncertainty is having a negative impact on the ability of local authorities and third sector partners to plan service provision in the longer term. Whilst immigration is a reserved matter, the paper states that:

the Scottish Government is clear that displaced people should be able to remain and be supported in Scotland for as long as they need to. This includes a need to establish clear routes to settlement in Scotland for those who wish to stay here.

The Warm Scots Future paper also notes that there have been an increasing number of instances in which current visa requirements have made it difficult for families to be reunified, for example involving family members being discharged from military duty in Ukraine. The paper also states that given that some people may wish to return to Ukraine when it is safe for them to do so, consideration should be given to routes for voluntary repatriation.

The Scottish Government states that implementation of its fourth strategic priority, pursuing clarity on routes to resettlement, family reunification and repatriation, will include seeking clarity from the UK Government on what will happen after the end of the visa period, reviewing the pause of the supersponsor scheme, considering how family reunification can be supported, and developing proposals for voluntary repatriation for displaced people from Ukraine.

Continued partnership and collaboration, ensuring good governance and recognising the lived experience of displaced people from Ukraine

Partners involved in the resettlement of displaced people from Ukraine in Scotland include the Scottish Government, COSLA, the Scottish Refugee Council, local authorities, the third sector, community groups (including diaspora groups), the NHS, schools, colleges, and universities. The Warm Scots Future paper notes the special importance of a joined-up approach between different partnership organisations given that displaced people from Ukraine will interact with several services providing support.

The Warm Scots Future paper emphasises the importance of including the voice of displaced people from Ukraine in such partnership work. The review of the Supersponsor Scheme also included a review of the relevant governance structures and established an additional group to facilitate greater participation from stakeholders, including the Ukrainian community in Scotland. The paper states that a Ukrainian Collective, representing displaced people from Ukraine living in Scotland, has been established to ensure the lived experiences of displaced people from Ukraine is considered in the policy-making process. The Ukrainian Collective is represented on the Stakeholder Reference Group which forms part of the governance structure of the Ukrainian resettlement programme.

The Scottish Government states that implementation of its fifth strategic priority, regarding partnership work and collaboration, will involve supporting a place-based approach as well as ensuring the lived experience of displaced people from Ukraine informs and shapes the policy-making approach. The Warm Scots Future paper also further states that a delivery plan will be developed to implement the objectives relating to this priority.

The Future of the Supersponsor Scheme

 The Scottish Government’s Supersponsor Scheme has been paused for applications since July 2022, with several reviews since then concluding that it is not ready to be reopened. In a letter to the Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee dated 31 July 2023, the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice Shirley-Anne Somerville provided an update on the Supersponsor Scheme pause: 

The outcome of the most recent review in June 2023 has concluded that a continuation of the current pause should remain. With the Programme Board’s endorsement, we now intend to review the pause on the Scheme every 6 months and we will inform the Committee of the outcome of that review in 6 months’ time.

The next review of the scheme is due to take place in December 2023.

Annie Bosse, Researcher, SPICe Research