During the Scottish Government Debate – ‘Solidarity with Ukraine’ – local MSP for the Linlithgow Constituency, Fiona Hyslop delivered a hard-hitting speech focusing on the impact on the people of Ukraine, the need for a massive international response, economic sanctions and humanitarian aid.
Fiona made clear that UK’s democracy has been and is at risk by the UK’s on-going relationship with Russia and Russian money, and that the invasion of Ukraine is a breach of international law which must be condemned.
The debate showed that the Scottish Parliament stand firmly and in unity with Ukrainians and supports Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and democracy as Russia invades.
Fiona’s Full Speech:
This morning’s news of the invasion of Ukraine brings fear to generations who only know of war in Europe as history, and we all feel the dread of what will happen and what the response and any further escalation will mean.
What is done in peacetime to shore up alliances matters and the strength of that will be proven in the days to come. The invasion of the sovereign internationally recognised territory of Ukraine is a breach of international law and is to be condemned.
I want to focus on the people of Ukraine: the mothers who fear for their sons; the sons who fear for their mothers; those who have faced conflict in Donetsk and Luhansk since 2014; those fleeing Kyiv this morning in that steady stream of blinking red lights as cars formed the exodus; and the families with children in those cars who are afraid and in flight.
To the many Ukrainians I have met here in Scotland, I say, we want you to know that the Scottish Parliament will stand in support of you.
An estimated 4 million Ukrainians live in Russia, made up of 2 million permanent residents and 2 million temporary workers who have been told to leave. That is above those who are living in peril in Ukraine. It needs a massive international response. In previous conflicts, the Scottish Government has moved swiftly to offer help to refugees and we must work with the UK and EU to do so again.
I appeal to the UK Government to rethink its Nationality and Borders Bill because it will make it harder for people who are under threat in Ukraine and other areas to obtain asylum.
Humanitarian aid needs to be mobilised swiftly. Ukraine is the bread basket of Europe. The realities of food shortages must be prepared for and planned for now internationally as grain silos are reported as being bombed today.
President Putin’s sense of grievance at the collapse of the former Soviet Union is no justification for an imperialistic invasion destroying a peace in Europe that, however fragile, has prevailed for 70 years. This is the Kremlin’s war, not the Russian people’s war. The Russian people should have freedom and real democracy, and we need to support those who seek to champion the people over the Kremlin.
The pride and belligerence of empires in decline can prove to be very dangerous but we must guard against those qualities elsewhere. Democratic interference, as evidenced by the Westminster Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament’s Russia report, financial donations and the hosting of dirty money laundering must be hit head on. The UK’s democratic back door was left open to the Russians, but the front door was also opened, with generous entrance fees accepted. That weakens the UK Government’s influence just when we need it to act, and when support and respect for the international rule of law needs to be upheld and championed in the strongest of terms.
The UK Government needs to implement the recommendations of that report, expel the oligarchs, freeze the assets and enforce the hardest of economic sanctions, and it must do so swiftly. We need firm diplomacy. NATO’s response is loaded with consequences, meaning and interpretation, and its statement from this morning carefully states that Russia will pay a heavy economic and political price.
I return to the people of Ukraine. In 2016, I welcomed to the Scottish Parliament one hero of the 2014 Ukrainian Maidan revolution who galvanised the crowds at that time, the actor turned activist turned culture minister Yevhen Nyshchuk. Where are he and his family today? Wherever they are, on this darkest of days, we say, and say together, that this Parliament stands by Ukraine.