by Colin Campbell
Ukrainians who have fled to Scotland amid the war with Russia will be able to access NHS services for free, and will also be entitled to a full range of benefits.
Health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “We are determined to do everything in our power to give displaced people from Ukraine the warmest welcome possible when they arrive and this includes offering healthcare to those who need it. We fully recognise that they may have been through very traumatic experiences and could require specialist treatment and care.”
In addition, emergency legislation will allow people coming to Scotland from Ukraine to meet residency conditions for Scottish social security benefits.
Yousaf added: “Removing charges for healthcare and providing access to benefits is a practical step in ensuring those who have been forced to flee their homes and country can live safely and comfortably in Scotland for as long as they need to.”
Obviously these are arrangements for people from a war torn country that everyone will support and agree with.
Except everyone won’t. Not by a long chalk.
In fact for every person who believes these are sensible and indeed completely necessary “welcoming” gestures to the Ukrainians there’s liable to be someone else with a markedly different view.
Namely: “We have enough of our own problems. Do we really need more?”
The shock impact of the war is fading. Now despite the continuing wall to wall coverage of the war many people are paying less and less attention to it.
It’s clear that this conflict is not going to be resolved quickly. Particularly with senile old Joe Biden fanning the flames by calling for Putin to be ousted, an incendiary statement made all the worse because it emerges he blurted it out as yet another gaffe, which was never intended to be made.
Where’s Donald Trump when you need him?
So the war could continue for months, or even years. And all the time the exodus of refugees will continue. At least 200,000 are due to arrive in the UK, with a significant number coming to Scotland.
All guaranteed NHS care, benefits, and don’t even mention housing.
Mental health treatment in Scotland? Yes, so long as they can wait a year to see a specialist. And NHS operations for a range of specific conditions? Make that a three year wait. There are very many people in the long, long queue for treatment. And they emphatically don’t want these queues to be jumped by anyone. And it’s the ultra compassionate Yousaf and his SNP Government which is responsible for these problems after having so comprehensively fouled-up the health service in Scotland.
And as for housing. Well suffice to say that no council is going to announce with compassionate pride that they’ve decided to allocate the next 20 or 30 new build properties to Ukrainian refugees. We had Ian Blackford parading around last week as the Child Refugee Saviour. And Nicola Sturgeon and her underlings like Drew Hendry have made great play of emphasising how kindly, welcoming and compassionate Scotland and its government is compared with England.
But when it comes to specifics from now on things are likely to go pretty quiet.
These days this seems to be a country in the grip of rage, anxiety and fear over our own problems, without the influx of Ukrainian refugees now adding to them.
Clearly the views already expressed here on the Chancellor’s budget were not reflective of wider opinion, in some quarters at least.
Obviously we were ludicrously wrong to suggest that tough times lay ahead as a result of two years during which billions of pounds were paid out by the UK Government for people to stay at home doing nothing.
Millions of people receiving virtually their full salaries for months on end for sitting at home watching Netflix or deckchairing the garden? How shocking it is that the evil, callous UK Government is unable to reduce the impact of that to zero, and continue paying out billions upon billions more without restraint.
Nicola Sturgeon, who wanted the free money furlough scheme to continue indefinitely, and would still have it in place if she could have her way, called it “disgusting”.
There has also been a deluge of criticism of the fact that Rishi Sunak is a multi millionaire.
This argument, which I’ve seen repeated time and again goes simply: “How can a rich Tory toff have any idea how ordinary people are suffering?”
I’ve no more affinity with “rich Tory toffs” than anyone else, including Sunak’s most strident critics, many of them public sector officials handsomely paid their full salaries during the past two years to sit on their backsides doing very little, or nothing.
But here’s what I believe is another fact.
What do many “ordinary people” really think of the nation’s finances?
Just go and ask White Van Man or a self employed joiner or painter or sparkie or a guy grafting 10 hours a day on a building site what he thinks of welfare and handouts and benefits.
These particular “ordinary people” take a view which is altogether different from many of Sunak’s critics.
In fact the expletive ridden response you’d get from many of them about welfare and handouts and benefits would make Sunak seem like the most impossibly generous Father Christmas.
I believe benefits should be increased, no one should have to rely on foodbanks and everyone should be able to keep their houses reasonably warm.
I also believe Ukrainian refugees in unlimited number should be entitled to a full range of NHS treatment, and benefits.
So that’s the “nice guy” stance of someone who won’t be directly affected by any of this, at least with regard to housing, benefits and food banks. And how fully and utterly aware I am of the mass of contradictions and competing priorities such a view contains. But such detachment is not available to those who are affected by it.
The Ukrainians have left a country in the grip of horror and trauma that we can only imagine. But to say they’ve also arrived in a troubled country is an understatement, one gripped with anxiety and fear for the future among many.