PRESSURE has ramped up on the Home Office to fast-track visa sponsorships after more than 20 Scottish businesses have 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.

READ MORE: 'Birthplace' of Saltire flies Scotland and Ukraine flags in show of support

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 have 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 [from Ukraine]."

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 continued: “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.

“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 two million Ukrainians have fled since Russia invaded two weeks ago

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.

“Really, it's children we really want to help but unfortunately, we only have one property that's big enough for a family. But they can't wait for six months. This is is an emergency.

The National:

Businesses across the Highlands are offering support for Ukrainian refugees

“This is almost on our doorstep. It's part of Europe - and we're all European at the end of the day."

Deputy First Minister John Swinney told The National: “The Home Office’s refusal to engage on this matter is hugely disappointing.

"The UK Government’s unwillingness to allow Ukrainian refugees to enter the UK first and focus on paperwork later is an abject failure of leadership. Indeed, if they do not quickly reverse this course of action, it will be a stain on the moral character of the UK."

READ MORE: Step up sanctions against Russia, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky tells MPs

Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart said: “I commend Gavin on the incredible work he is doing for local visa sponsorships. At time of writing, he has more than 20 local businesses signed up to house Ukrainian citizens, a number that is growing by the day.

“Unfortunately, the UK government are continuing to drag their heels in implementing a system that allows for these generous offers of sponsorship to be fulfilled. The long and hostile visa application process is barbaric in this time of crisis, particularly when there are people across the country offering immediate places to live and work.

“I will continue to call for the UK government to follow the rest of Europe in waiving visa requirements for all Ukrainians as a matter of urgency.”

The UK Government has been approached for comment.