Quite a few people have been in touch asking what the Council’s response to Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine is. I can now confirm that next Thursday in Full Council the Council Leader will propose we confer the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh on Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in recognition of their Leadership and heroism.
Throughout the crisis I have recognised the value of symbolic demonstrations of solidarity, but I have also been urging that the Council takes real action to support Ukraine. On Thursday my group will table a motion condemning the horrific and illegal attacks on the independence of Ukraine and its people. We will also commend the Ukrainian people for their “heroic defence of their land in fighting the illegal invasion”, and we will also ask that the Council agrees:
- to withdraw all support and cooperation and will withdraw and decline any future invitations to and from the Russian Consulate in Edinburgh with immediate effect.
- to write to the Russian Ambassador, advising that the Russian Consul is no longer welcome in our Capital and write to the UK Foreign Office to request the expulsion of Russian diplomatic staff from the City of Edinburgh until Russian troops vacate Ukraine.
- to ban all Russian Government-supported arts and cultural events and performances in Edinburgh Council-owned venues and encourage other venues in the City to do the same.
- write to the UK Home Office encouraging unrestricted refugee visas and agrees to work locally to source host families to house refugees, with a focus on those with cultural and language understanding to best support unaccompanied children, families and individuals. Following emails to me from a Buckstone resident, will be proposed that this should utilise Positive Action on Housing’s “room for refugees” programme and other organisations.
- to publicise the DEC appeal through Council communication channels and encourage financial donations as the best way the people of Edinburgh can help.
- to allocate up to £100,000 to help coordinate local efforts of humanitarian aid with the Edinburgh Partnership to maximise supplies to Ukraine and support local infrastructure within Edinburgh to facilitate donations and transport supplies to distribution centres in Poland and other locations.
- to write to the MOD to request access to any unused temporary accommodation for those travelling to Edinburgh from Kyiv and wider Ukraine in the knowledge that those people will overwhelmingly want to return to their Country when the war is over.
- to make preparations to ensure that schools are prepared to continue Ukrainian children’s education who are coming to Edinburgh and work to prepare other support services to support those fleeing the conflict.
Following a conversation I had with a Russian mother in Edinburgh this week, we will also ask that the Council acknowledges the protests in Russia of brave citizens opposing this war and those Russians within Edinburgh who have stood with Ukraine in making clear this is not in their name.
These proposals will be debated by Edinburgh’s 62 Councillors on Thursday – all will have a chance to speak and amend them. As part of the debate I hope to pay tribute to the work Ukraine’s neighbours have done to deal with Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II – particularly Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia.