Scottish Parliament 2016 Election: What the party manifestos pledge for refugees

Scottish Parliament Debating Chamber

Scottish Refugee Council welcomes the solidarity with refugees shown by most political parties in their election manifestos.

And we are calling for the next Scottish Parliament to pass legislation within its devolved competences to protect refugees and help them integrate.

 Graham O’Neill, Scottish Refugee Council Policy Officer, said: "Scotland can be proud of the solidarity shown to refugees during the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.

“We are pleased that this solidarity is reflected in most manifestos for the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, notably those from Scottish Labour, the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Scottish Green Party, the Scottish Liberal Democrats and RISE.”

There were three common themes running through the manifestos that address refugee issues:   

  • Recognition of the scale of the humanitarian challenge of forced displacement coupled with an inspiring solidarity to stand with the resilient women, men, and children in their time of need
  • The importance of a principled, rights-and law-based approach to refugee protection as far as is possible in Scotland's devolution, reflecting that seeking safety from persecution is and always has been a core human right
  • The importance of channelling the widespread public support for and solidarity with refugees into an integration process that unites refugees with settled communities to enrich modern Scottish life across our towns, cities and communities. 

Graham O’Neill added: "We were especially delighted with the commitment by Scottish Labour to introduce a Refugee Integration (Scotland) Bill as well as the SNP's promise to embed social and economic rights and the European Convention on Human Rights into Scots law. 

"We also warmly welcome the emphasis placed by all the parties that included refugee issues in their manifestos on the importance of better responsibility-sharing at the European and international levels, particularly around the establishment of safe and legal routes for refugees from countries as diverse as Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Eritrea, and Nigeria.

“We are both heartened and confident that Scotland's consensus for refugees will deepen during the life of the next Parliament, as we welcome more into our communities across the country and see the real women, men and children behind the label ‘refugee’: the friend at school, the colleague at work, and the parent at the school gates. They are all new Scots entitled to the rights all people in Scotland should have."

Here is what the political parties are saying about refugees in their manifestos for the Scottish Parliament elections in May 2016:

Scottish Green Party

Scotland can welcome refugees with open arms. We will continue to campaign for the UK Government to accept more refugees and asylum seekers. We will also campaign for a system that accounts for women’s gendered experiences of fleeing persecution and violence. Scotland has the space and communities to open to people in need of a home and we will support calls for resources to support community, civil society and charity action to aid integration.

Green MSPs will push for a bolder Scottish strategy for ‘new Scots’ based on dignity and respect and built on consultation with refugees, local communities and other organisations such as housing and healthcare providers. This strategy should address people’s physical and mental health needs, provide appropriate housing, maintain asylum seekers’ skills for work and provide transition grants to help people build a new life as Scots.

We want an asylum system which treats people with dignity not contempt. Green MSPs will support campaigns to create a safe and legal route to the UK, limit detention to circumstances where a UK citizen would also be detained, and close Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre. Detention should never be imposed on those who might suffer additional harm due to their age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, pregnancy, health, or experience of rape or torture.

Full Scottish Green Party manifesto

Scottish Labour Party

We know that diverse communities are stronger for what each part of the community brings to the whole. We have a responsibility to ensure that refugees who come to Scotland are given more than just a home. They must be given hope of a better future. We will work with local authorities and third sector organisations to welcome and support refugees and we will continue to argue that the UK should take a more humane approach to welcoming those fleeing conflict and persecution.

The humanitarian crisis has filled our TV screens, bringing stories  that have filled our hearts with emotion, none more so than the image of a toddler boy, Alan Kurdi, washed up on a beach.

The Scottish Labour and trade union movement responded doing what they do best: organise, prioritise and help. Wishaw to Calais was the seed from which grew a wider Labour and Scottish response to refugee protection.

The rise of worldwide human displacement is a generational challenge. Scotland can be a beacon for the human right of refugee protection. We must put the structures in place to welcome and integrate those forced to flee their own countries, right across all of Scotland’s communities. That is why we will introduce a Refugee Integration (Scotland) Bill setting out refugees’ rights to access services, enshrine national standards for integration in law, especially around language and interpretation, and simplify the many provisions in Scots law relevant to refugees.

Full Scottish Labour manifesto

Scottish National Party 

In the next Parliament, we will also seek to use our new powers to establish social and economic rights for Scotland over all matters we have responsibility for and to further embed the European Convention on Human Rights in Scotland.

We will invite a cross party group, including civic society, to establish a collaborative process, engaging with people across Scotland and learning from best global practice in participatory democracy, to advise on the guaranteed protections we should seek to enshrine in law.

The SNP believes that Scotland must play its part – through action and leadership – in helping tackle global issues such as extreme poverty, the impact of climate change, the plight of refugees fleeing war and repression and the humanitarian impact of disasters and emergencies.

We will continue to provide support to Syrians who have arrived in Scotland through the Resettlement Programme and who wish to take up college or university courses. We will also examine a change in the rules on providing support for students who are seeking asylum or refugee status, including enabling them to qualify for free tuition.

Refugee families and individuals who currently move to Scotland to be with their family under Family Reunion laws are entitled to crisis grants whilst they get settled. However, settling in a new country, with a new culture and language and getting to know your family again after many years of separation, is a difficult process that we want to make easier. We will therefore set up a fast track crisis grant fund for refugee families who settle here under Family Reunion rules.

We support efforts for a more coordinated European response on Syrian refugees, with all states playing a fair role as set out by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and championed by Amnesty International.

We will establish a £1 million a year fund to respond to future humanitarian emergencies, and help provide emergency aid to refugees and displaced people fleeing war and persecution.

Full Scottish National Party manifesto

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Establish a formal protocol for helping refugees in Scottish communities, to build on good practice and make sure refugees and host communities get the support they need.

Full Scottish Liberal Democrat manifesto

UKIP Scotland

We know that Scotland hasn’t the resources to cope with an endless influx of peoples. As Scots, we are generous and we should always welcome those in dire need of refuge into our country.

Full UKIP Scotland manifesto


We will campaign to help raise awareness of challenges faced by asylum seekers and refugees. We strongly oppose the new Immigration Bill and believe that all detentions and deportations should be halted immediately. We are also committed to an open border policy and the unionisation of migrant workers.

RISE will also demand the Scottish Government provide refugees and asylum seekers with immediate and free access to food, transport and language courses. We will also campaign for asylum seekers to be given the right to work.

We will provide a welcoming strategy, working with various integration networks for new asylum seekers and refugees. We also support the immediate end to indefinite detentions and the closure of the Dungavel Removal Centre.

Full RISE manifesto


We welcome refugees fleeing war-torn regions and other ordinary families who wish to come and live and work in our country.

Full Solidarity manifesto

Women's Equality Party

Provide a sustainable national funding strategy for violence against women services that are locally operated and for and led by women. Both larger and smaller organisations need to be able to build long-term plans for their support work across Scotland. Services need to be available and accessible to women who face multiple disadvantages, including disabled women, deaf women, women with mental health needs, LGBT+ women, refugee women and women with uncertain immigration status.

Full Women's Equality Party manifesto

Scottish Conservative Party

No mention of asylum or refugee issues.

Full Scottish Conservative Party manifesto