SOCIAL Justice Secretary Shirley Anne-Somerville has issued a furious response to claims by the Home Secretary that Scotland is failing to accommodate its “fair share” of asylum seekers, saying it is "misleading".

The Scottish Government minister also dismissed a suggestion from James Cleverly that a cruise ship in Edinburgh could be used to house asylum seekers saying it is “unsuitable and entirely counter to integration principles”.

She also attacked the UK Government’s plan to cut net migration as “morally repugnant and economically illiterate”, saying it will cause “irreparable damage” to the economy in sectors such as higher education, health and social care.

The response comes after Cleverly sent a letter to First Minister Humza Yousaf in February urging him to commit to housing more asylum seekers in Scotland.

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The Home Secretary said Scotland had taken proportionately half the number of asylum seekers given accommodation in England, and asked that efforts be made to “rapidly” increase asylum accommodation north of the Border.

However, that claim was debunked by experts and Somerville said the Scottish Government and local authorities have “consistently played a full role” in the settlement and integration of asylum and refugees.

She wrote: “Across Homes for Ukraine, Afghan relocation and resettlement routes and asylum accommodation Scotland is supporting six people per 1000 compared to four per 1,000 in England.

“The latest immigration system statistics published ... on November 23, 2023 show that, in addition to 6090 people living in Scotland and in receipt of Home Office support following claims for asylum, Scotland has enabled 25,685 people to arrive in the UK through the Homes for Ukraine scheme with a Scottish Sponsor, and to a further 938 people through the Afghan Resettlement Programme.

“This represents a total of 32,713 people, compared to 224,743 in England.

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“Therefore, taking into account our population, Scotland has supported 50% more people per capita than England."

She added: "Since full dispersal was announced in 2022, all 32 of Scotland’s local authorities have made it clear that they are open to having asylum dispersal in their areas.

"Reductions in Scotland’s proportionate share of overall asylum accommodation only arose in the context of a period which saw asylum decision-making effectively pause and an overreliance on unsuitable contingency accommodation."

In the letter, Cleverly also said “greater parity” needed to be achieved across the UK regions to provide “fair and equitable” asylum accommodation, and asked to revisit options in Scotland, such as using MS Victoria in Edinburgh, which was used as temporary housing for Ukrainian refugees.

But Somerville said the Scottish Government had set out on “numerous occasions” that the use of such vessels and large sites are not suitable for people seeking asylum.

She wrote: “There are fundamental differences between people seeking asylum and other groups supported in temporary accommodation, in terms of their agency, support available to them and long-term outcomes.

“This - combined with the high likelihood of having experienced trauma - makes prolonged stays in contingency accommodation unsuitable and entirely counter to integration principles.

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“People seeking asylum should be accommodated within communities with access to the essential support and services they need.

“Housing asylum seekers on barges and other vessels cannot and should not be compared with the Scottish Government’s temporary use of cruise ships to accommodate displaced people from Ukraine.”

Somerville also criticised the UK Government’s plan to cut net migration as “morally repugnant and economically illiterate”.

She went on to say it would cause “irreparable damage to vital sectors of our economy such as higher education, health and social care, construction and hospitality”.

She added: “It is already apparent that the impact on families and our communities will be devastating.”