In 2005, the chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service advised the Justice 2 Committee that the budget allocated was £2 million. It is not possible to say what the final costs will be because the competition has not yet commenced. The money allocated will be spent on meeting the full bid costs: salaries, specialist advice, accommodation and other costs as required.
Is it not the case that the only reason why £2 million is being wasted on bureaucracy is that the Lib-Lab pact is wedded to the discredited Tory private finance initiative policy? Does the minister agree that the Prison Service would be much better using that £2 million to help prisoners get off drugs and to provide basic literacy, numeracy and anger management programmes, educational opportunities and new skills and other training courses so that they can
The bridging the gap project is about examining in detail whether the Scottish Prison Service, which is in the public sector, can put together a bid that would mean value for money for the taxpayer.
I welcome the Scottish National Party's conversion to the notion that going straight to PFI in the prison sector would be worth doing and would save money but, frankly, I am astonished that it seems to be abandoning the public sector in that context. Of course we want to ensure that the right programmes are in place in our prisons. As well as building new prisons, we are spending a significant amount of money on redesigning, rebuilding and refurbishing our existing prison estate. That is the right approach to take and I think that the SNP is letting down Scottish Prison Service staff and public sector workers by proposing that they should not be allowed at least to try to compete on a level playing field.