PRESSURE has ramped up on the Home Office to fast-track visa sponsorships after more than 20 Scottish businesses pledged to sponsor some 60 Ukrainian nationals.

The National previously revealed how Gavin Price, an Aberfeldy businessman, was battling with the Home Office after being told his offer to provide jobs and accommodation for two Ukrainians would take months.

The Schiehallion Hotel owner said registering for the visa sponsorship would take up to three months – time he said Ukrainians didn’t have.

And now 20 firms from Aberfeldy and Highland Perthshire have signed up to Price’s refugee pledge.

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Price said between all the firms they can help more than 60 Ukrainian refugees with many having their accommodation, employment and travel costs taken care of by the firms. He added that local residents have also offered to help with a place to stay.

The group of local businesses pledging to help those fleeing will ramp up pressure on the UK Government which has been heavily criticised by opposition parties and humanitarian groups for its slow intake of Ukrainian refugees.

While much of Europe is allowing visa-free access for those fleeing the eastern European country amid the Russian invasion, the UK has chosen not to. The Tories have cited security concerns as the reason.

Speaking to The National Gavin Price said: “Loads of other businesses in Highland Perthshire have got in contact offering a similar deal for work visas and accommodation.

“A lot of businesses now could take up to well over 60 people. On top of that there are a lot of residents around the areas offering accommodation for families which is a big help because not all the employers would be able to house all the people they could employ. So there’s a real collaboration of effort in the area to make a real difference.

“Day by day we are getting more offers but it’s only a good story if things dramatically change from the Home Office."

So far, there doesn’t seem to be any significant movement from Priti Patel, Price said.

He continued: "There's clearly a really strong desire in Scotland to do this from all walks of life for individuals and families and it intertwines with the fact that in this area, in the hospitality sector and other sectors as well, there is a lack of workers.

"There is an interest there as well, maybe not the priority, but it's certainly a requirement. And it’s not just hospitality.”

Stewart McAdam, who owns Adie Kennels & Cattery in Ruthvenfield, was born and bred in Aberfeldy.

He has first-hand experience with the scourge of war and wants to do what he can to help those afflicted by it.

He told The National: “I went away to the military and came back.

“I've seen this firsthand. It's not abstract to me. I was in the military. I served in the Balkans. I saw what happened in Kosovo.

“I saw it when they were burning houses so this is really upsetting me what I am seeing here.

McAdam said he is offering accommodation for a  mother and a child.

He said he wanted to see the Home Office speed up its intake of Ukrainian refugees.

He said: “if you look back in history, the British people took in the Kindertransport in the Second World War. So it isn't too much to ask to open visas for the Ukrainians for a certain period of time. They did it in Kosovo.

"The rest of Europe aren't gonna hold this all together. Everyone has got to step up as far as I'm concerned.

“If this Government doesn’t get a grip as a country, we should be hanging our heads in shame.

“And I am not talking politics by any means here, I am a floating voter, but I will never vote for this government again if they don't get a grip and they need to do it quickly.

The National:

More than 2 million Ukrainians have fled since Russia invaded two weeks ago

“If you're listening to Priti Patel on the news, they've set up a rapid response team, which consists of three people in Calais with a bag of crisps and a Mars Bar. That isn't a rapid response.”

Robin Menzies, owner of Mains of Taymouth Country Estate & Golf Course, is also offering accommodation to a family fleeing Ukraine.

He told The National: “It’s a terrible situation. We’ve got a business here and then accommodation is key, because there are so many jobs around here anyway.

"And we do have some accommodation and a bit of work as well. And we're just desperately wanting to help - as are a lot of other local businesses.

“We could definitely house a family and then we have other accommodation for single people or couples.

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“Really, it's children we really want to help but unfortunately, we only have one property that's big enough for a family.

“I've got a lot of faith that governments will push this through though. They can't wait for six months. This is is an emergency.

“I think everybody in the world wants to help the best they can. But this is almost on our doorstep. You know, it's part of Europe. And we're all European at the end of the day. We just want to help in any way we possibly can.”

The UK Government has been approached for comment.