New Scots Core Group minutes: May 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 23 May 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Alison Phipps, University of Glasgow (Chair)
  • Maggie Lennon, Bridges Programmes
  • Emma McCarthy, British Red Cross (until 4:20pm)
  • Stuart Cameron, Creative Scotland (online)
  • Andy Morrison, COSLA (online)
  • Gayle Findlay, COSLA
  • Madhi Saki, Mental Health Foundation (online)
  • Billy McKenzie, Scottish Government
  • Georgia de Courcy Wheeler, Scottish Government (online)
  • Jackie Walder, Scottish Government (online)
  • Elodie Mignard, Scottish Refugee Council
  • Gary Christie, Scottish Refugee Council
  • Wafa Shaheen, Scottish Refugee Council
  • Jenny Kehoe, Scottish Government (Minutes)


  • Esa Aldegheri (item 3 – NSRIDP update)
  • Dan Fisher (item 3 – NSRIDP update) (online)


  • Phil Arnold, British Red Cross
  • Jacqui Hughes, DWP
  • Ghizala Avan, Mental Health Foundation
  • Amira Petrescu, Police Scotland
  • Emma McKean, Police Scotland
  • Paul Matheson, Police Scotland
  • Natalie Nixon, Scottish Government
  • Graham O'Neill, Scottish Refugee Council
  • Eva Hanna, University of Glasgow

Items and actions

Minutes of meeting on 13 December 2022

Members agreed the minutes of the last meeting. Alison noted that core group minutes would be published on the Scottish Government website, once agreed by the group.   

New Scots refugee integration delivery project update

Jenny noted that an additional year of funding had been secured from the EU, but with a slightly different focus to support the development of the third New Scots refugee integration strategy.  The funding would support engagement with people with lived experience and with professionals, with a small grants fund to support lived experience engagement and five events for professionals across Scotland. There was also an extension to the University of Glasgow’s research work on integration to cover the experience of people from Afghanistan and Ukraine; support for Refugee Festival Scotland, including small grants for 68 refugee community organisation events; and £500,000 to support nine ESOL and six employability projects.

Jenny highlighted continuing work to tie up projects funded under the previous grant scheme. She also noted work to finalise the New Scots evaluation report undertaken by ScotCen and the report of IPPR’s research with local authorities. Alison noted that research from the project had been presented in Brussels in December. The University of Glasgow research would be pulled together into a report with pull-outs covering each theme area.

Esa advised that the University of Glasgow research looked at the effects of ongoing socio-political change in the context of reserved and devolved matters. There were many interconnected themes and seventy recommendations, both short and longer term and with local and wider focus. Key areas covered in the recommendations were decentralisation of engagement and service delivery systems; flexible and long term funding; inter-cultural dialogue and education; trauma sensitivity; and accountability and responsibility for supporting New Scots. Key findings related to the multi-faceted and transformative nature of integration; restorative justice based on human rights; robust accountability; and reframing understanding of needs and resources.

Maggie welcomed the recognition of elements of integration shared by receiving communities and the need to demonstrate the impact on receiving communities. Dan advised that the concept came from the context of people who have been through the asylum system, explicitly thinking about what they had gone through and how to restore what they have lost. This would also apply to the experience of resettlement from camps. Alison noted that this was about seeing integration as a corrective to deficit for all communities and noted that receiving communities often have long histories of trauma. Wafa linked this to the asset-based approach, and Alison noted the need to identify what a rights based approach looks like practically.

Final report update 

Jenny noted that additional information was being sought to fill gaps in the report, using the ‘you said/we did’ format. The draft report would be circulated to the steering group and then the core group, prior to leadership sign off. The aim was to publish by the end of September. 

Action: Draft final report to be circulated to steering group and then core group, once gaps filled.

New Scots strategy

Alison noted that the new strategy needed to link with work on Ukraine, focused on integration, rather than housing. There were multiple challenges, including the Nationality and Borders Act, the Illegal Migration Bill and funding. New Scots needed to be a strategy with action plans and funding. She noted discussions about timescales and said the feeling was that delivery partners needed a strategy to be in place.
Billy noted that the Scottish Government wanted a strategy as soon as possible that worked and delivered what the sector needs. He noted the challenge of resources and the difficult budget context over the next three years. He thought the strategic context should be possible this year, but that actions and funding would be difficult to deliver by the end of the year.    

Andy noted that COSLA understood that we were working to November 2023. There was a push from local authorities to have a strategic underpinning for refugee integration work and ongoing need for resource to deliver on longer term refugee integration. Gayle noted that having a framework makes delivery easier and highlighted the requirement for the strategy to secure funding. There needed to be a focus over the next few months, while resource from AMIF was still available.

Gary agreed on the need for a strategic direction to set out Scotland’s stall and the context and direction. He noted that previous action plans had been usurped by events and said that accountability needed to be driven by the strategy. The biggest impact was from the widening of asylum dispersal across the country, and there was a need to set out the responsibilities of public bodies and local authorities. Wafa noted the need for a top level framework and that there was a lot of research that could feed into the strategy. 

Billy advised that the research report recommendations would be worked through to consider the implications for the Scottish Government and local government. He confirmed that Ministers would be advised of partners’ views on timescales. Andy noted the need to do the groundwork, rather than waiting for clarity about resource.

Maggie highlighted the risk of losing work that has been done so far, and that people could disengage due to lack of progress. The strategy had worked for years without funding, which wasn’t right. She saw a need to focus on wider areas of the Scottish Government and drive progress through equality and human rights impact assessments. She noted a lot of best practice that could be used.

Alison noted that research colleagues were working on the strategic underpinnings of the next strategy. This work could be presented to partners to see if it could form the basis for further development. It would look at how to move from emergency response to integration, looking at funding and the need for parity across programmes. Billy highlighted the need to incorporate learning from Ukraine into New Scots. Andy noted that the need to engagement with all relevant sectors, rather than undertaking work in a silo. Alison noted that work by the drafting group would continue to develop a draft by June.

The core group agreed that the strategy will be progressed to reflect the 2 stage approach, with the Strategic framework planned for completion in advance of COSLA taking through their internal governance and the action plan following after. The NS Core Group agreed to stick to the previously agreed NS timetable and ask SG to develop a timetable for this aim of November delivery of a strategic framework to be met. It agreed that the draft Strategic Framework should be sent for comment before the end of June to steering group partners. It also agreed that the Strategic Framework does not constitute the whole strategy but was a way to ensure that Leaders and partners can receive and agree a direction ahead of the development of the strategy. BK stresses that Minsters and Leaders could not be locked in to agreeing to publish a strategy and the final decision will come from the politicians, but under advisement which includes the decision of NS Core Group.


  • drafting group to continue work on the development of a high level framework for the next strategy, with the aim of producing a first draft for members to consider in June
  • research report recommendations to be worked through to consider impact and feasibility

Emerging issues and updates

Ukraine resettlement

Georgia noted the disembarkation of the Victoria and that work was taking place to help people find alternative accommodation. The pace of moves was likely to increase in the coming weeks.  She noted that welcome accommodation would be provided if people were unable to identify hosting arrangements or housing in the social or private rented sectors. Georgia advised that work was being undertaken on a paper on strategic priorities for Ukraine resettlement to be published in the summer. This would cover the transition from the emergency phase focused on accommodation to a business as usual intermediary state, prior to wrapping up into New Scots and wider integration. The Team was engaging across the Scottish Government and with COSLA and others, as well as looking at the University of Glasgow research report.

Afghan resettlement

Gayle noted that over 700 Afghans had been resettled to Scotland, with 300 currently in bridging hotels. She advised that those in bridging hotels were being matched into social or private rented sector housing, as the UK Government would be closing the bridging hotels over the summer. She noted concerns due to the lack of alternative accommodation, which was exacerbated by family sizes and access needs.  

Asylum dispersal

Gayle advised that asylum dispersal was widening outside Glasgow, but with small numbers. There were twelve asylum contingency hotels in Scotland and more in the pipeline. There had also been discussion about large sites, but it wasn’t clear what this would mean for Scotland. The impacts of the Illegal Migration Bill weren’t clear yet. Gayle advised that 300 unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) had arrived into Scottish local authorities through the National Transfer Scheme, with thirty local authorities now supporting (UASC).

Any other business

Maggie highlighted the ESOL Strategic Group, which would like to get involved in the theme group or core group.

Alison noted Maggie’s forthcoming retiral and paid tribute to the work she had done through Bridges Programmes to support refugees and people seeking and in support of the New Scots strategy.   

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