Council slammed over refugee snub

editorial image

Council bosses have been criticised by two MSPs for failing to welcome any refugees to East Dunbartonshire.

Strathkelvin and Bearsden SNP MSP Rona Mackay slammed East Dunbartonshire Council during a debate in the Scottish Parliament.

While West of Scotland MSP for the Greens, Ross Greer, who lives in the area, is writing to the council demanding to know why no Syrian refugees have been 
accepted locally.

In her speech in chambers, Ms Mackay, said: “I have to say that my local authority, East Dunbartonshire Council, is one of the three that welcomed absolutely no refugees, citing lack of housing as the reason.

“That is the same Labour-Tory-led coalition that takes 81 days to rehouse people into vacant social housing, despite an enormous waiting list.

“Surely it is not beyond the wit of man or woman to find a way to accommodate refugee families in East Dunbartonshire.

“Many people I know have said that they would happily open their doors and take in a family.”

The debate at Holyrood marked Scotland resettling 1,000 Syrians fleeing war.

Mr Greer said in contrast to East Dunbartonshire, several local authorities in the west of Scotland topped the rankings across the UK for the number of Syrian refugees taken in.

Renfrewshire Council has accepted the third highest number of refugees through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons resettlement scheme.

He added: “The response in Scotland has in so many ways been exemplary. Overall, 29 of our 32 councils have taken in Syrians seeking refuge. The problem with this is that to come third in the UK, Renfrewshire took in just 68 people.

“Scotland has welcomed just one thousand refugees through the UK’s Syrian Resettlement Program – from a total of 2,800 across the UK. This is just a drop in the ocean of misery and desperation which has come from the Syrian conflict and in the wider refugee crisis.

“I realise that our response in Scotland is dictated by abysmal UK government policy. However, East Dunbartonshire Council cannot claim to be doing all it can to help.”

In response to the criticism, East Dunbartonshire council leader Rhondda Geekie said: “The council committed to supporting the relocation of refugees in Scotland last year.

At our recent Policy and Resources Committee, we agreed 
officers will liaise with local Registered Social Landlords to explore whether there is available accommodation in the area, and to ensure it is suitable to house
refugees within the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.

“Once we have identified suitable accommodation in addition to the wider support we will provide, we will indicate to CoSLA our intention to participate.”

Back in October 2015, Councillor Geekie told the Herald the council and its partners had agreed a joint 
approach and were willing to play a part.

She added at that time: “Our Community Planning Partnership Executive will meet in coming weeks to determine our local arrangements based on what is being discussed nationally.”