IN news that will surprise nobody, the French interior minister decried the UK’s approach to Ukrainian refugees as “inhumane” on Sunday. The compassionate Priti Patel, of course, denied the accusations – don’t the French know that the UK has let in 300 Ukrainians on visas since this crisis began?

The UK’s response to the war in Ukraine has not been insignificant; its approach to human beings, however, has been found wanting. The Ukrainians did not ask for this war, yet it is the people of Ukraine who are suffering from the shells of a megalomaniacal man.

As of the time of writing, more than 1.7 million Ukrainians have fled Ukraine, making it the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world since the Second World War. The EU has unanimously waived visas for Ukrainians for three years in response – an achievement in itself, given how the last migrant crisis threatened to tear it apart. EU countries have backed up their words with action. The UN reports that Slovakia has taken in more than 128,000 refugees. Hungary has taken in more than 180,000. Poland, more than one million.

The generosity of eastern and central Europeans has been exemplary; the lack of care by the UK Government disappointing. This is why we and many others across these islands will continue pushing the UK Government to discover its compassion and help those fleeing this horrific war.

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Thankfully, the people of these islands care. The response has been overwhelming, both in my constituency of Stirling and across Scotland. The Scottish Government pledged last Monday to donate £4 million for humanitarian aid. In addition to this, more than 500,000 emergency items worth £2.9m are being donated by NHS Scotland. This includes vital medical supplies such as hypodermic needles, oxygen masks, wound dressings and bandages, the first shipment of which was sent on Sunday. Compassionate Scots donated £10m to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal for Ukraine in just four days.

Last week, I was privileged to visit some of Stirling’s volunteers and businesses who have come together to support Ukrainians. It was completely incredible to see the generosity on display at Bridge of Allan Parish Church in person, but other volunteer groups who merit mention include Braehead Football Club, Aberfoyle Memorial Hall and the Cowie Rural Action Group. The Wallace Monument has also been spectacularly lit up in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, as Stirling came together in solidarity for the people of Ukraine. Over the weekend I also caught up with SNP members in Dunblane and at their street stall the response was unequivocal: we should open up our borders to refugees from Ukraine.

If I were to mention every individual and organisation which has come together to organise donations and engage in online solidarity, there would not be enough pages in Scotland. As a country, the people of these islands have demonstrated their humanity and compassion in a dark moment in Europe’s history.

It is crucial then that the UK Government waives visas, not flags. Solidarity is important but virtue-signalling alone is not going to save Ukrainian children from Putin’s munitions. It is quickly becoming apparent that despite Johnson et al’s rhetoric, the UK is not world-leading nor world-beating, but simply a world-weakling in its response to this humanitarian crisis.

SO what else can be done at this stage beyond opening our borders to Ukrainian refugees? One thing could be for the UK to effectively push for viable humanitarian corridors enforced by the international community. It is clear that Putin cannot be trusted, having three times promised to set up a corridor and three times having broken his word. The International Committee of the Red Cross has made clear it is willing to help, but it needs security guarantees that it can operate safely as provided for in international law, a concern echoed by the UN secretary-general. This will not be an easy process; nonetheless, the groundwork must be laid in forming international humanitarian coalitions to allow people to flee their destroyed homes.

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Secondly, every donation of aid counts. The generosity of the people of these islands has been astounding and it is important the UK Government continues to match it. On this, the UK and the Scottish governments have done well in supplying humanitarian aid to save lives, and weapons to help Ukrainians defend themselves.

Thirdly, we must continue to watch our words. The Russian people were the first victims of Putin’s tyranny and it is clear that many Russians oppose Putin’s illusion of imperial resurrection. Thousands in Russia itself have bravely taken to the streets to protest his war, with many being arrested. We must find ways to help support Russian civil society in its efforts voicing its opposition to Putin’s war.

Finally, the UK must continue ramping up its sanctions to match those of the EU and the US to bring maximum pressure to bear on Putin and his cronies. The UK is the weak link in the chain and has a genuine opportunity to be a world leader in this regard. That it has not is a damning indictment itself of this Tory government.

This crisis will only get worse before it gets better. Refugees around the world deserve our support and help to escape violent conflict and create a new life for themselves. The EU gets this message, as does Scotland – it is high time the UK Government did too.