Ukraine War: Nicola Sturgeon is failing to deliver her pledge to Ukrainian refugees in yet another example of over-promise, under-deliver by SNP – Susan Dalgety

When will the Scottish Government learn? Making grandiose promises is not the same as the hard slog of delivering change.

Millions of Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes by Vladimir Putin's invasion (Picture: Wojtek Radwanski/AFP via Getty Images)
Millions of Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes by Vladimir Putin's invasion (Picture: Wojtek Radwanski/AFP via Getty Images)

Nicola Sturgeon must regret her 2015 pledge to close the attainment gap between richer and poorer kids. “I’ve put my neck on the line,” she said at the time.

Seven years later and the gap is almost as wide as ever. A recent report by Audit Scotland said progress had been limited and “falls short” of the government’s stated ambition. Sturgeon’s neck must be hanging by a thread by now.

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This tendency to over-promise and under-deliver is a hallmark of the SNP under Sturgeon. She confuses – accidentally, I’m sure – soundbites for strategy.

And she never misses an opportunity to assert that Scotland is better than the rest of the UK, even if the evidence for her claim is often flimsy, at best. The trouble is many people believe her.

When she announced in March that Scotland would go one better than the Westminster government and offer refugees fleeing war-torn Ukraine a fast-track “super-sponsor” scheme, she said she wanted to “short circuit” the UK process.

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“We have an obligation to play our full part in the global humanitarian effort, and offer sanctuary, security, and a home to thousands of people who desperately need it,” she told the Scottish Parliament.

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Last week, the man responsible for delivering on Sturgeon’s promise, refugees minister Neil Gray, had to admit that the scheme is “on pause” as the government scrabbled around for accommodation for the thousands of Ukrainians who want to come to Scotland, but have nowhere to live.

A temporary home for 700 people has been found on the MS Victoria, a former cruise ship anchored off the Leith coast. “Like a prison ship,” quipped a cynical friend of mine, who like me is aghast at the thought of people escaping the horrors of war only to find themselves trapped in an old boat in the Firth of Forth.

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The Ukrainian Consul General has already complained about families stuck in cramped hotel rooms, unable to find more suitable accommodation. And Lothian Labour MSP Foysol Choudray told the Evening News that there is still a backlog of Afghan and Syrian refugees living in temporary accommodation.

Under Homes for Ukraine, the UK scheme, refugees have to find a sponsor – and a home – before applying for a visa. But in an effort to distinguish the Scottish scheme from the one in England, Nicola Sturgeon said that the Scottish Government would be the sponsor for thousands of refugees, which meant that it had to find each one a home. So far, it has failed spectacularly.

I am sure that, when the First Minister sat down after delivering her speech in March offering sanctuary to Ukrainian refugees, she felt good about herself and her government.

No doubt she thought that, once again, she had shown how Scotland under her leadership is a much better country than England under the Tories.

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Except that all she did was make a promise she could not deliver, and now thousands of Ukrainians are having to pay the price for believing her spin.