SCOTLAND is a caring and compassionate country and I’m sure few people have been able to look at the heartbreaking images of refugees without feeling emotional. It’s devastating to see men, women and children trekking across Europe with their whole world on their backs.

The Scottish Government has made it clear to the UK Government that Scotland will take its proportionate share of refugees coming to Britain. As Minister for Europe and International Development, I chair a task force which is designed to help smooth the transition for the adults and children preparing to come to Scotland. We’re holding meetings on a regular basis with key stakeholders, such as charities, councils and unions, to ensure Scotland is well prepared.

I've knocked on enough doors to know that many people still have negative misconceptions about refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, despite the fact they've contributed so much to Scotland over the years. On the plus side, I have been overwhelmed by the heartwarming response of Scots up and down the country who have asked me what they can do to help the world's most vulnerable people.

We anticipate refugees will begin arriving in Scotland before Christmas. It’s vital that communities across Scotland play a part in giving families and individuals a warm welcome. But what can we all do to help?

1. Pledge your support

I have been blown away by the volume of support shown by people across Scotland so far. I recently met with volunteers from the charity, Glasgow the Caring City. Together, we helped load materials and supplies onto a lorry bound for Novi Sad in the Balkans. Seventeen tonnes of warm winter clothing has been kindly donated by the Scottish public. The message charities are feeding back is that they too have been moved by the unrivalled generosity and compassion towards refugees, and the donations of clothing and other goods. Their more immediate need is for there to be a move to monetary donations, in order to ensure that the clothing and other goods can be channelled to the right places. For a list of charities to donate to visit

2. Get involved

There are many ways to fundraise and people of all ages can get involved. You could organise a cake sale, a coffee morning, a sponsored walk, a charity ball or a marathon, the list is endless. I recently met with the Bradley family, who were so moved by the refugee crisis that they organised a walk from Fife, where they live, to the Scottish Parliament and raised an impressive £4,000 for those most in need. It’s easy and safe now to set up a “just giving” page, as these websites show:, ,

3. Work with others

When organising a fundraising event it might be useful to form a small committee to discuss ideas. Once your event has been established, think about drumming up publicity. Social media is a great way to spread the word. Local radio and newspapers may also be interested in picking up on your story, and don’t forget to inform your local MSP/MP. When you start collecting money, ask people to Gift Aid their donations. It means you can raise an extra 25p for every £1 donated by a UK taxpayer. Websites such as Just Giving can also work well here, as people can donate via credit or debit card.

4. Teach English

Many refugees can't speak English, and not being able to communicate is a huge barrier to social inclusion. It can be a difficult process for refugees; they can feel socially isolated and may struggle to find employment. Could you help a refugee to read, write and speak English either in your home or in your local community?

5. Offer friendship

It’s important that refugees are made to feel part of the community they live in. Moving to a new country, especially under difficult circumstances, must be terrifying. The results of befriending can have a significant, positive impact on people. It can provide those in need with a new direction in life and can increase self-esteem. Saying hello and arranging to meet for coffee could make all the difference. A number of parents have recently been in touch to offer play dates with refugee children.

6. Find out more

The Scottish Government and Scottish Refugee Council recently set up a dedicated website in response to the humanitarian crisis. Latest figures show we’ve had more than 1,200 pledges of support. If you’ve been inspired by some of my suggestions then why not give just five minutes to help make a difference? If you would like to volunteer to teach English, befriend or assist a refugee in any other way then fill out our online form at

7. Show you care

Negative rhetoric surrounds the refugee crisis at times. Words like "migrant" and "swarm" do nothing to help these individuals. Show your support by taking to social media and sharing a picture holding up a sign with the hashtag #IWelcomeRefugees.