Empty military housing should be used to home Ukrainian refugees, says MSP

Gordon MacDonald has asked Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to make use of the 11,000 unoccupied MoD homes.

30 March 2022

Vacant military housing should be used to support refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, an SNP MSP has said.

Gordon MacDonald has written to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, urging him to bring some 11,000 homes owned by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), but not occupied, back into use.

On Wednesday, the Home Office announced 2,700 visas have so far been granted under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

In his letter, the Edinburgh Pentland MSP said: “Other countries are already making good use of empty military housing, including the USA where eight military bases are currently being used to house Afghan refugees until permanent housing is made available.

“I am sure you would agree that if the choice is a family home or a hotel bedroom for months on end, then most people would choose a family home and I believe it would be a failure of the Ministry of Defence not to utilise these properties to provide a safe, warm home for displaced Ukrainian people.

“I would urge the MoD to take this forward as a priority, working with the Scottish Government and the local authorities.”

He added: “The horrific situation we are seeing has been met by an outpouring of generosity from people across the country – with over 100,000 people signing up to the UK Government’s request to offer a home for the refugees.

“This is an incredible response but it is important that the Government also steps up and makes use of the properties you own.

“Therefore, I am writing to urge you to use the hundreds of empty MoD homes, some of which are situated in and around Dreghorn and Redford Barracks in my constituency, which have been left empty for numerous years, to house Ukrainian refugees arriving in the UK right now.”

Reports from last year show 11,000 MoD owned homes were unoccupied, including 900 in Scotland.

Mr MacDonald’s SNP colleague, Siobhian Brown, last year made a similar call for the UK Government to provide housing for Afghan refugees fleeing the country after the Taliban regained control of the country.

In a statement, Mr MacDonald added: “In Scotland, we are ready to accept and welcome Ukrainian people – it would be a missed opportunity to not use the hundreds of properties, owned by the MoD that no one has lived in for years, to house people in safe and warm homes.

“Westminster should commit to maximising these unused sites for the thousands of people displaced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, who have had their lives turned upside down and who we have a moral duty to provide sanctuary for.”

An MoD spokesperson said: “The UK Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme has seen an unprecedented surge of public support, with sponsorship offers from across all four nations of the UK.

“As we manage up to 16,000 service family moves every year, we need to retain vacant homes across the UK, but we are looking at what we can do around this.”

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