Calls are being made to bar all Russian ships and planes from entering and leaving Scottish ports and airfields following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The UK Government has issued a series of sanctions and travel bans against Russian companies and individuals since the invasion of Ukraine to limit their activities and ability to raise money.
However calls are now being made for further action to be taken after a private Moscow-bound flight was allowed to take off from Inverness, and ahead of a Russian oil tanker planning to dock in Orkney.
Council powerless to stop vessel docking
Russian oil tanker NS Champion is due to arrive in Orkney’s Flotta oil terminal on Tuesday 1 March – Orkney Islands Council says it is powerless to stop this.
NS Champion is owned by Russian company Sovcomflot, one of the world’s largest petroleum shipping companies.
Sovcomflot is currently facing sanctions from the US, but as of yet there are no sanctions imposed on this company by the UK Government.
A spokesman for Orkney Islands Council said: “As a council we are in an extremely difficult position.
“We recognise the strength of feeling around this – feelings that we share – but we are bound by our legal obligation to accept the vessel, until such a time as the UK Government tells us otherwise.”
UK needs to ‘act decisively’
External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson says the UK Government needs to “act decisively” in response to NS Champion’s plans to dock in Orkney.
Speaking on The Sunday Show, Mr Robertson said: “My understanding is that the vessel is covered by United States sanctions so the UK authorities have got a big decision to take, on whether we are going to allow Russian-owned or chartered vessels to dock in UK ports.
“I don’t think it is time for business as usual, and the Scottish Government is in discussions with the UK authorities about this particular case but there will be others.
“This is a very fast moving situation and we’re going to have to act decisively in my view, because we cannot carry on as if nothing is happening on the far side of Europe.”
Alistair Carmichael, Lib Dem MP for Orkney and Shetland, has also written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for Sovcomflot to be sanctioned and for the vessel to be denied access to the Flotta oil terminal.
I have written to the Prime Minister calling for him to sanction and block Russian-owned tankers, like those belonging to Sovcomflot, from accessing UK ports. While the NS Challenger has left Sullom Voe, another Sovcomflot tanker will arrive in Flotta on Tuesday. We must act. 1/ pic.twitter.com/85F2KjsSl4
— Alistair Carmichael MP (@amcarmichaelMP) February 26, 2022
He said: “We expect you, as our prime minister, to act to stop this continued trade that is earning money to fund the slaughter of Ukrainian citizens.
“It is imperative that you should act without delay to ensure that Sovcomflot is sanctioned and denied access for their vessels to British ports.”
This comes after another Russian oil tanker NS Challenger was able to dock at Sullom Voe terminal in Shetland on the day Russia invaded Ukraine.
Blackford calls for flight ban
Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, is also calling for all flights from Scotland to Moscow to be banned as well.
This comes after it appears a private jet was able to take off from Inverness for Moscow on Sunday 27 February.
Mr Blackford said: “To see a private jet leaving Inverness for Moscow is gut-wrenching.
“We need to ban all flights to Moscow unless authorised for humanitarian reasons.
“To see a Highland airfield being used for people, money or goods to reach Moscow is not acceptable.”
To see a private jet leaving Inverness for Moscow is gut wrenching. We need to ban all flights to Moscow unless authorised for humanitarian reasons. To see a Highland airfield being used for people, money or goods to reach Moscow is not acceptable. https://t.co/8yol3c8RKd
— Ian Blackford (@Ianblackford_MP) February 27, 2022
Mr Blackford says this was possible because the aircraft is not registered in Russia, and adds he will be raising this issue of this “loophole” in the House of Commons.
This comes after British airlines were banned from landing at Russia’s airports and from crossing its airspace – this was in retaliation to the UK banning Russia’s national airline Aeroflot from landing in Britain.
A spokesman for the UK Government said: “We are aware of concerns about Russian-connected ships potentially docking in the UK and we are working rapidly to explore a range of measures to restrict access for them.
“We are already discussing this issue with the Scottish Government and the sanctions being considered are part of a wider package being worked up across the UK Government.”
Call for Russian diplomats to be expelled
Scottish politicians are also calling for Russian diplomats to be expelled from the UK, including Russian ambassador to the UK Andrei Kelin and Russian consul-general in Edinburgh.
Mr Robertson said: “The idea that we should have Russian diplomats in the UK supporting the Kremlin lies about the war in Ukraine is intolerable.
“This is not normal circumstances, this is not a time for normal diplomatic relations.
“The thing Putin understands is power and the thing Putin understands is people acting and reacting to what he is doing.
“So not only should the Russian ambassador be sent back to Russia to explain the UK is not prepared to put up with what is going on, but we have Russian diplomats based in Scotland and we need to ask ourselves, ‘why are these people here in support of Putin’s war in Ukraine?’
“It is intolerable.”
Ross Greer MSP, the external affairs spokesman for the Scottish Greens, added: “The growing package of sanctions and diplomatic measures being taken in response should include the expulsion of a number of Russian government officials from Ukraine’s allies, including the UK.
“Putin has used his diplomatic network to spread lies and disinformation, including outright denials that an invasion was coming.
“Russian citizens in Scotland, who are certainly not to blame for the Kremlin’s actions, can continue receiving any support they need without the consul-general himself being present.”