Nicola Sturgeon invited to take Ukrainian referee home to ‘lead by example’


Alex Cole-Hamilton, the leader of the Scottish LibDems, offered a refugee the use of a well-equipped cabin in his Edinburgh garden, which he had previously rented on a short-term basis through AirBnB.

“The Scottish Government’s handling of the refugee program has been an absolute disaster,” Mr Cole-Hamilton said. “We need more impetus to find volunteer hosts and more money to vet them as soon as possible.

“My family and I are being matched with a Ukrainian who we hope to welcome home from early September. It would be a powerful gesture if the Prime Minister joins me in doing the same.”

Ms Sturgeon’s flagship ‘super sponsor’ initiative has run into major problems, with around 20,000 Ukrainians who have not yet arrived having already been granted the right to come and live in Scotland.

However, severe shortages of temporary housing have raised fears that they have nowhere to live.

Two huge cruise ships have been hired, in a deal that will cost taxpayers up to £100m, although even at full capacity they would only provide space for a fraction of the refugees which could arrive in Scotland over the next few months.

The one-bedroom, en-suite cabin in Mr Cole-Hamilton’s Garden, West Edinburgh, has received hundreds of positive reviews from those who have stayed there via AirBnB. He previously earned between £5,000 and £10,000 a year in income from renting out.

When Ms Sturgeon pledged to take in a refugee, she attacked the UK government for its Homes for Ukraine scheme.

The “super sponsor” program abandoned last month

She successfully lobbied to be allowed to set up her “super sponsor” course, which meant that her government would directly sponsor applications rather than refugees having to wait to be matched with someone willing to share their home.

However, although an ‘uncapped’ number of people can come to Scotland under the scheme, it was scrapped last month.

About 30,000 visas have been granted under this program, and although only 10,000 have arrived so far, the places to lodge them are almost exhausted.

Miles Briggs, Scotland’s Conservative MSP, said the push to persuade more people to open their homes was “a call from the SNP for ordinary Scots to bail out the Scottish government for the mess created by its chaotic Ukrainian refugee policy “.

He added: “No wonder SNP ministers are again appealing for kind-hearted Scots to welcome more Ukrainians.

“But it’s a big ask in the midst of a global cost of living crisis, so perhaps it’s time for the Prime Minister to lead by example and follow through on his own promise to house a refugee if necessary.”

Asked if Ms Sturgeon would join the scheme, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘This is of course a personal decision for each household – anyone looking to provide accommodation for those fleeing the war in Ukraine will need to be sure to understand what they are being asked to offer, taking into account their own circumstances, family and family responsibilities, and housing conditions.

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