New Scots Core Group minutes: September 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 13 September 2023

Attendees and apologies

Alison Phipps, University of Glasgow (Chair)
Phil Arnold, British Red Cross
Gary Christie, Scottish Refugee Council
Jenny Kehoe, Scottish Government
Karen McIntyre, Bridges Programmes
Billy McKenzie, Scottish Government
Elodie Mignard, Scottish Refugee Council
Natalie Nixon, Scottish Government
Madhi Saki, Mental Health Foundation
Annie Saha, British Red Cross 
Wafa Shaheen, Scottish Refugee Council
Ghizala Avan, Mental Health Foundation (online)
Gayle Findlay, COSLA (online)
Jackie Walder, Scottish Government (online)
Mandy Watts, Scottish Government (online)
Deborah Sherlock, Scottish Government (minutes) (online)


Jewels Lang, Scottish Refugee Council (item 6 – Strategy Engagement) (online)


Jacqui Hughes, Department for Work and Pensions
Paul Matheson, Police Scotland
Emma McCarthy, British Red Cross
Andy Morrison, COSLA
Stuart Cameron, Creative Scotland
Emma McKean, Police Scotland
Paul Matheson, Police Scotland
Graham O'Neill, Scottish Refugee Council
Eva Hanna, University of Glasgow

Items and actions


AP welcomed everyone to the meeting. Thanks went to Gail for the efficiency of setting up the meeting room. She welcomed those who were here for the first time including: Karen McIntyre, the new CEO of Bridges Programmes; Mandy Watts from the Ukraine Resettlement team in SG and Annie Saha, as well as Deborah Sherlock from the SG team who will be minuting today’s meeting. She also welcomed Jewels Lang from SRC, who has joined us to talk about the strategy engagement item.

Minutes and actions from the meeting on 23 May 2023

Members agreed the minutes of the last meeting on 23 May.

AP provided an update on the actions from the previous Core Group meeting:

For the circulation of the strategy draft strategy, there were a lot of comments to incorporate which caused a delay in sharing this. The draft was shared with the group as part of the papers with discussion following under item on strategy refresh.

AP invited JK to discuss the final report for New Scots 2. JK said that this work is in progress and will be finalised once we have received input from all groups. It will then be shared with the Core Group.

New Scots Refugee Integration Delivery Project (NSRIDP) Update

JK provided an update on some of the work taking place across Workstreams 1-3 of NSRIDP:

  • work is continuing across the three partner organisations to support the remaining projects funded under the original grant scheme to complete their reporting
  • separately, the 15 projects funded through the Supporting New Scots Fund for ESOL and refugee employment in April are progressing well and those projects will continue to run until November
  • the New Scots microsite went live in June
  • the report on the external evaluation of the second New Scots Strategy, carried out by ScotCen, was published in August and is now live on SG website
  • the IPPR report that SG and COSLA commissioned on the role of local authorities in refugee integration in Scotland is due to publish in October
  • public polling will begin later this month, and the results from this will also feed into the strategy development

Action: Jewels to attend the next meeting and give a more detailed update on some of the work that has been taking place under the Supporting New Scots Fund.

AP updated the group on some of the work that University of Glasgow is doing under Workstream 3:

  • the University of Glasgow is doing research and dissemination work. Researchers Dan and Esa shared the findings, recommendations and scope of the New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy: A report on the local and international dimensions of integrating refugees in Scotland report with Kezia Dugdale for the University of Glasgow's Spotlight Podcast series
  • there is also work underway on a downloadable, open access integration for Scotland handbook with commentary from partners around the world. The extent of work that has been carried out highlights what makes New Scots internationally distinctive

EQIA Session

NN gave a presentation on the work being undertaken to complete the necessary Impact Assessments as part of the strategy development. Discussion focused on the Equality Impact Assessment, which helps to ensure that the different needs and experience of those with protected characteristics are considered as part of the policy development. There was an interactive session in the room and a Jamboard for the online attendees so that group members could flag any potential positive or negative impacts that the strategy may have on each of the protected characteristics. 

All input from today will be used to continue to work on the impact assessments and ensure that any sensitivities are considered as part of the strategy development. The final EQIA results will be published next year.

Strategy Refresh 

AP reminded the group that at the May meeting Core Group had agreed we should pursue a two-stage approach, with the Strategic framework to be published first and the action plan following after. This strategic framework builds on the language in New Scots 2. Partners are still working to this approach, subject to official sign-off by the New Scots Leadership Board tomorrow. At that meeting, Core Group had expressed that they wished to stick to the aim of a November 2023 delivery of a strategic framework, although this will also be subject to discussion by the New Scots Leadership Board tomorrow.

For this meeting, the ask was for comments on the draft framework in its current form, but before the group begin discussions, it would be helpful to hear from each of the three lead partners.

BMcK advised that at this stage SG felt it essential for those with lived experience to consider the work to date and seek changes where this was required to ensure their needs were addressed. The first stage of the draft strategic framework is on aims, principles and outcomes, and these will tie to the action plan to be developed for Stage 2.

GF mentioned that Will has been working with the drafting team to input around what we have in strategy so far. There has been some consultation around what's most important to people. There is a need for the strategy to set out a framework that can really speak to and be useful for people on ground.
There are a lot of new people in the resettlement space, so the strategy needs to be relevant to those who have never dealt with supporting asylum seekers and refugees before. New Scots partners will be talking to political leaders to figure out what resources are available and the feasibility of actions.

GC said the new strategy needs to be directive. The framework should be enough context for where actions may develop. Having a position statement towards Scotland’s intent towards support for refugees and asylum seekers is increasingly important. This will have resonance beyond the practical actions. GC agreed that meaningful engagement is needed, particularly around what those supporting asylum seekers and refugees need to do their jobs. Meaningful lived experience engagement should be around actions rather than principles and theories. He mentioned that it might be difficult to make lived experience engagement around the framework meaningful.

AP invited EM and JK, as some of those currently working to draft the strategy, to add anything further.

EM highlighted that New Scots should be the framework for all activity around asylum and refugee integration so having outcomes is a positive step towards this.  She mentioned that part of the work of the drafting group was to ensure outcomes respond to the recommendations within each of the research reports as these provide solid references to existing research.

JK mentioned that while the action plan will follow later, the actions will have to relate back directly to the aims and outcomes set out in the strategy, so asked Core Group whether they think the draft strategy captures everything it needs to. She asked whether it is missing anything, if there’s anything that we haven’t got right or whether there were any other issues with the draft.

AP summarised the discussion so far saying that SG requests that the strategy needs further input from those with lived experience, beyond the 3 year NSRIDP project. COSLA highlighted the consultation and learning since 2015, and with lots of new actors in field they consider New Scots to be a manual for those providing support for the first time. SRC emphasised that having a position statement setting out Scotland’s support for refugees and asylum seekers is increasingly important. AP reiterated that there’s a need for high level objectives and meaningful actions, as well as for clear accountability and governance structures. The updated strategy will continue to be based on the principles of New Scots 2, including integration from day one, a rights-based approach and lived experience involvement. 

KMc mentioned that when talking about statutory services there's a lot of organisations who are used to supporting people, but there are many who also would like to get involved but don't know how.

PA agreed that there a lot of actors and experience involved with new actors, we need to make sure that this is not a two-tiered approach. We mustn’t shy away from the difficult spaces. PA noted there was lots to work through, and it was important not to create a two-tier different approach whereby some are left behind. It is also important to not only invest in the easy areas. On the ‘rights based, restorative approach’ principle, can anything be done when those rights are undermined? Would the Human Rights Commission get involved for when these rights are breached? He also asked how we will work with communities who might be distrustful. He suggested that the strategy will need to look at risks as well as building on rights. There might be an issue around making it grounded with the current risks that we're facing. On the day one principle, need to consider the language and impact of this for family reunification. This shouldn't mean nothing can be done in advance of arrival. There was a point made around the importance of involving those with lived experience and whether this is strong enough. This should be around more than just engagement/consultation – accountability and feedback are important too.

MS followed on from this pointing to page 10 in the strategy document where it says ‘with’ and ‘for’ asylum seekers and refugees and wondering why it doesn’t also say ‘by’. He asked if language could be clearer around the term ‘New Scots’ and said that something is missing around educating Scottish people about asylum seekers and refugees. Integration should involve investing in both sides, not just refugees, e.g., education within schools to address these gaps in understanding. How are you going to fill this gap? This is really important. Also, is/how is this Strategy going to change strategy advocate to change anti-refugee legislation at the UK-wide level? Need to be clear why – i.e., because it’s anti-human.

EM made a terminology point around recognising those who are currently in the asylum process asking whether the wording could be improved.

PA mentioned that there's a lot of experience out there and it would be good to look at the different solutions in other countries that could be applicable in Scotland (NI, Wales and even US Homeland Security super sponsor style action).

AP suggested that we go to organisations that can provide blueprints for us (such as the UNHCR).

BMc suggested that there are three things to address by drafting group: involvement by lived experience; what is meant by community cohesion (including how to address racism); and the point around advocacy and how we use the strategy document after publication. 

WS mentioned the wording around the ‘Day one’ principle which states it would ‘mitigate the impact’ of UKG legislation suggested that this needs to be stronger and that there’s a need to take action for the strategy to be credible.

GC mentioned that an issue SRC were facing is how to challenge within vs outwith the framework. The strategy should not only be mitigating but should also be challenging UKG impact. Consider how to talk about the UK Government to challenge and go beyond their frame (rather than having the strategy framed by UK Government approach).

AP mentioned that some of this will be helped through the international framing especially around the UNHCR and the Scottish Human Rights Bill.  The human rights framework may be different by the time the strategy and actions are published.

On the point of governance, AP asked how we might strengthen this, noting that there are calls for where to go when things go wrong and how to report any rights breaches. AP mentioned that we may need to revisit Core Group membership once we determine what we will need. AP mentioned that on the ‘Day One’ principle, the background work is often done ahead of the day someone arrives but need to be cognisant of language. There is also a need to show that we are doing lived experience engagement. She mentioned that New Scots may not be preferred term now, but whatever term we use, we’ll need to show that the strategy supports asylum seekers and refugees. 

BMc made a point around holding SG to account and that an annual progress report on all the actions might be good for this. This would help stakeholders to push us. In order to get accountability, we need transparency.

KM reiterated MS’s point around the importance of taking an anti-racism approach to the refreshed strategy. 

Action: JK asked members to get any other comments to her by close on Wednesday 20 September. 

AP mentioned that at the Leadership Board tomorrow, she will meet with the three leaders from across the partnership to discuss next steps and the timeline for both the framework and the action plan. Core Group will be updated on this at the November meeting. 

Strategy engagement

GC spoke to this item mentioning some of the discussions that have taken place to date, including four face to face sessions and one online, with each day consisting of two sessions – with professionals and with community representatives and refugee leaders. He mentioned that professional engagement is due to start around the strategic framework and the actions. There will also be engagement with community representatives and refugee leaders on the principles and actions that are required and how they can get funding to deliver engagement sessions in their communities. This will probably be more around actions. Working with the AMIF-funded SCDC project ‘Organising for Integration’ to deliver tools that will be used for these sessions. The intention is that those community representatives and refugee leaders who attend will then deliver lived experience engagement sessions in their communities. 

GC said that they will be prioritising smaller groups to get down to granular level. The events led by partners are planned to start in October, with community events following straight on from this and to be wrapped up by end of the year.

PA mentioned that some people might be interested in more of an ongoing role and felt that this might be quite a good first step of engaging with people. GC said that he would be very keen that people would like to be involved going forward. There will be a lot of those groups already but want to have people involved.

Emerging issues and updates

MW gave a brief update on Ukraine resettlement. She mentioned that the Warm Scots Future paper was being prepared for publication. This shifts the approach from a crisis response to business as usual and mainstreaming approach. There are five key priorities for this: 

  • that this the approach will be trauma informed and rights based in line with New Scots
  • that there will be a reduction in the reliance on welcome accommodation
  • that there will be a boost for long term settled housing leaving a legacy for Scotland
  • to have clarity around routes to resettlement, family reunification and repatriation
  • to ensure there is continued partnership and collaboration including with those who have lived experience of displaced people from Ukraine

MW said that the other piece of work in this area is that the team are now looking at re-entry and moving on in terms of welcome accommodation, which has been agreed by the Delivery Board. This will commence with COSLA and key partners. AP mentioned that she and Gayle are also involved in this work and that it’s good to see it is almost there.

GF updated on Afghan Resettlement, with most Afghan hotels across the country closed by 31 August. Some hotels remained open for families that had been matched to properties that were not yet ready for occupancy. Work was done with partners with SRC and Home Office Liaison Officers to support families into their new homes. 
For asylum dispersal there has been an increase in the number of contingency hotels operating in Scotland. The Home Office has also introduced a policy of hotel maximisation (room sharing). Asylum dispersal is widening in local authority areas outwith Glasgow. GF also mentioned that there is now a streamlined asylum processes for five nationalities which can go through a speedier route. 

UASC have continued to be referred to Scotland, including as a result of a court case involving Kent County Council being taken to court and having to empty hotels. 

Action: MW to share the Warm Scots Welcome report with Core Group


AP mentioned that the next Core Group meeting would be on Wednesday 22 November. As usual this will be hybrid – in-person at the SRC offices with an online option as well.


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