UKRAINE: What’s the real figure for refugees who arrived here?

By Bill Heaney

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today asked the Scottish Government to justify claims made by the First Minister that more than 23,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Scotland.

This was in light of figures from the Department of Levelling Up suggesting that just 15,000 support payments have been made to local authorities.

On 16 March 2023 Humza Yousaf said: “I am proud that Scotland has welcomed over 23,000 displaced people from Ukraine – a fifth of all UK arrivals”.

Similar comments have been made by other SNP ministers including Angus Robertson, Neil Gray and Nicola Sturgeon.

By 14 March 2023, 23,778 displaced Ukrainians had travelled to the UK on a visa sponsored either by an individual Scottish sponsor or sponsored by the Scottish Government through their super-sponsor scheme. However, payment data from the Department for Levelling Up raises questions about whether many of these arrivals travelled onto Scotland.

Since March 2022, funding has been provided to local authorities to support all arrivals under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, including arrivals under the Super Sponsor Scheme. Data for the period from March 2022 to the end of March 2023 has now revealed that just 15,647 payments were made to Scottish local authorities.

Mr Cole-Hamilton, left, said: “It is important that we get accurate figures in order to aid in planning for future crises and future waves of refugees.

“There is no doubt that thousands of displaced Ukrainians have been accommodated in Scotland and a huge range of individuals, organisations, charities, local authorities have worked very hard to make this possible.

“We need a proper accounting of where all of those issued with visas have ended up. That starts with the Scottish Government providing clear justification for the claims made by Humza Yousaf and how that tallies with these fresh figures on support payments.

“The record should be set straight on exactly how many of the UK arrivals with a Scottish sponsor were actually ‘welcomed into Scotland’ and how many decided to settle into living in communities in other parts of the UK.”


Mr Cole-Hamilton played host to a displaced Ukrainian for nine months through the Hosts for Ukraine scheme.

In response to a parliamentary question from Mr Cole-Hamilton asking the Scottish Government what information it holds on how many Ukrainians, who received visas through the Super Sponsor Scheme, arrived in the UK but never came to Scotland or registered with a Scottish local authority, minister Emma Roddick said that “The Scottish Government do not hold this information. Under the current constitutional arrangements in the United Kingdom immigration is fully reserved to the UK Government and is dealt with by the Home Office.”

Quotes from Scottish Government ministers on the number of Ukrainians in Scotland are as follows:

Humza Yousaf, 16 Mar 2023: “I am proud that Scotland has welcomed over 23,000 displaced people from Ukraine – a fifth of all UK arrivals”

Neil Gray, 23 Feb 2023: “More than 19,000 of the arrivals into Scotland have come through the Scottish Government’s own successful super-sponsor scheme”

Angus Robertson 23 Feb 2023: The warm Scottish welcome that we have provided has been a collective effort that we can all be proud of. I am proud that Scotland has welcomed more than 23,000 arrivals from Ukraine in the past year and that more than 19,000 have come through our super sponsor scheme’.

Nicola Sturgeon, 23 Feb 2023: ‘Scotland has so far welcomed more than 23,000 Ukrainians into our communities, the majority of which arrived through our super sponsor scheme’.

The Scottish Government state in their regular statistical reports that “It is important to note that the number of arrivals into the UK is not necessarily reflective of the persons having arrived at the sponsors’ location.

An individual, arriving on a visa sponsored by a Scottish Sponsor, may arrive elsewhere in the UK and decide to remain there’. However, ministers have not included this clarification when making statements regarding the number of Ukrainians in Scotland.

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