NICOLA Sturgeon has announced a new £50million fund to help house Ukrainian refugees after The Herald revealed those on the front line are in despair at an over-stretched system.

The First Minister told MSPs the money would help councils and housing associations refurbish otherwise unusable properties and lease them to families fleeing Russia’s war.

Earlier this week the Herald revealed a scathing memo from the group tasked with delivering the cornerstone of the Scottish Government’s plan to tackle homelessness. 

The Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans group, made up largely of council officials, warned housing providers were unable to accommodate refugees on top of tackling existing homelessness problems with the resources they were being given.

They said they were “desperate” and the Government’s response to the Ukrainian situation, while well intentioned and necessarily fast-paced, had been “confused”.

READ MORE: Anger as 'confused' SNP response for Ukrainian refugees hits homeless services

At FMQs, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton raised the Herald’s reporting and asked about the Scottish Government’s super sponsor scheme for Ukrainian refugees, which was paused in July after being overwhelmed.

The Government has been forced to rely heavily on temporary accommodation, including two cruise ships, one berheed at Leith and another on the Clyde.

Ms Sturgeon revealed the latest data showed 18,411 displaced Ukrainians were currently being accommodated in Scotland, almost 20 per cent of the total number in the UK.

Of these, 14,852 are under the super sponsor scheme, with 3,559 sponsored by individuals.

That compares to an initial commitment of 3,000.

“I think this is something for everyone across Scotland to be very proud of, and it is of course an important part of our contribution to supporting and helping Ukraine in this hour of need.”

She said the Government was currently reviewing the operation of the super sponsor programme to ensure sustainable support to those here, as well as those still arriving.

“I can also confirm today that we are providing a dedicated capital fund of up to £50m which will be available for registered social landlords to help bring sustainable accommodation into use and boost the housing supply for those fleeing conflict in Ukraine.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “The First Minister boasting about numbers will be cold comfort to those who have been living out of suitcases since February, or are coming to the end of a placement with no idea what happens next. This isn’t a new life, this is a new limbo. 

“And the mobilisations in Russia, and the pretend referendums, mean no chance of a quick return for our Ukrainian guests. 

“A memo leaked to The Herald from the government’s own rapid rehousing group has described confusion and increasing desperation. 

“This Government has written goodwill cheques that refugees can’t cash. It closed the scheme in July, but still hasn’t acted on my call to reissue the appeal for homes.” 

He also urged Ms Sturgeon to extend free bus travel to refugees.

READ MORE: Homelessness experts seek urgent meeting with SNP's Shona Robison as problems mount

Ms Sturgeon said: "Scotland is more than playing our part. Almost 20% now of all displaced Ukrainians in the UK are being accommodated here in Scotland. That is a good thing. 

“It is good for Ukrainians and I think it is good for Scotland to be playing that positive part. 

“We continue to take the steps to ensure, of course, that not just temporary accommodation is available, that longer term more sustainable accommodation is available.”

The Scottish Government later said the £50m Ukraine Longer Term Resettlement Fund would help “refurbish properties that otherwise would not be available for let”.

It said the homes would be “good quality affordable homes… available for rent for up to three years, in line with visa length” after which some would remain social rented homes.

SNP refugees minister Neil Gray added: “We are providing sanctuary to more displaced people per head of population than any other part of the UK. 

“We don’t want people spending any longer than necessary in temporary accommodation so we are working hard to find longer term, sustainable accommodation.

“We have been working closely with local authorities and social landlords on proposals which could help meet the longer-term needs of displaced people from Ukraine. 

“This fund will boost the supply of homes by bringing empty properties back into use across the country.

“We’ve already provided £5m for the refurbishment of up to 200 homes in North Lanarkshire. “These works are progressing at pace and are due to be completed later this year. 

“A number of homes have also been identified in other areas and we are working closely with councils on other proposed projects.

“The safety and wellbeing of all displaced people from Ukraine is our absolute priority and this additional funding will help those displaced by this crisis to access a safe and secure home during their time here.”