SNP ministers have paused their flagship super-sponsor scheme for Ukrainian refugees after being flooded with applications – while a ship will dock in Edinburgh to temporary accommodate hundreds fleeing the conflict.

The Scottish Government will put a three-month pause in new visas applications in place from 9am on Wednesday amid a warning the decision will "put lives at risk".

Scotland’s super-sponsor scheme meant that the system allowed refugees to be taken in before being placed with families.

But concerns had been raised, including from the UK Government, over many Ukrainian families being accommodated in hotels while sponsors are found.

With visa applications through the Scottish Government scheme soaring by 21 per cent an visas issued up 27% and arrival rising by 20% on the previous week, ministers have announced a temporary suspension of the scheme.

A total of 21,256 visas have been issued naming a Scottish sponsor – more than 20% of the UK total, and the highest number per head of population in the UK. Scotland is currently providing sanctuary for over 7,000 people, two-thirds of whom applied under the Scottish super sponsor scheme.

READ MORE: SNP minister Neil Gray admits Ukrainian refugees sheltered in hotels for 'too long'

As well as pausing the scheme, the M/S Victoria passenger vessel will be docked in Leith to provide an extra 739 rooms of temporary accommodation.

Action has also been taken to refurbish 200 unused council properties in North Lanarkshire to provide more longer-term accommodation with £5 million of Scottish Government funding, Extra staff will be deployed in ‘surge teams’ to assist local authorities matching those in temporary premises to suitable longer-term accommodation. 

Meanwhile, the social housing landlord, the Wheatley Housing Group, has pledged to make 300 homes available to local authorities across Scotland to house displaced people from Ukraine.

SNP Ukrainian Refugees Minister, Neil Gray, will also meet today with Lord Harrington, UK Minister for Refugees, to seek clarity on existing funding arrangements for the Ukraine sponsorship scheme.

Mr Gray will also press the UK Government to consider introducing its own super sponsor scheme.

READ MORE: UK minister warns SNP's sponsor scheme leaving Ukrainian refugees 'stuck in hotels'

He said: “As a nation Scotland has risen in solidarity with Ukrainians in their hour of need. I am proud that thanks in large part to our super sponsor scheme, we are now providing safe accommodation to the most Ukrainians per head of population in the UK.

“We have been able to ensure thousands of people displaced by Russia’s horrific and illegal war were able to travel immediately and receive support and a place to stay without the need to be matched with a private host first.

“Our absolute priority has been to respond quickly to support those forced to flee their homeland and I thank all local authorities, third sector organisations, the private sector and the public, who have all mobilised in a major effort to help – together we have coordinated accommodation and delivered essential services at a large scale and in a very short space of time.”

Mr Gray added: “With a recent decrease in people applying for private sponsorship in England, and Wales having paused their own scheme, the number of applications naming the Scottish Government as sponsor has increased considerably in recent weeks.

“For this reason we have taken the incredibly difficult decision to follow Wales in pausing our scheme so we can continue to provide a high level of support and care to everyone who has already been granted a visa.

“We will review our position in three months, but of course if circumstances change during that time we will bring that date forward.

"In the meantime we are taking significant action to increase the capacity of our temporary accommodation and are also boosting our matching system to maximise the number of displaced people placed with volunteer hosts who have completed the necessary safeguarding checks.”

Scottish LibDem deputy leader, Wendy Chamberlain, said: "Vladimir Putin is not going to pause his assault on Ukraine for three months while Neil Gray and co iron out the bureaucratic kinks.

"This decision is going to put lives at risk."

She added: "Scottish Liberal Democrats have been warning for months that the government's efforts to secure housing and vet hosts was woefully inadequate. Local authorities have been crying out for more help.

"This is another example of the Scottish Government prioritising grandstanding over getting the detail right. The people of Scotland have shown huge generosity, now we need our government to do their part."