HMP Barlinnie (Replacement)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 7th November 2019.

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Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

2. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on its plans to replace HMP Barlinnie. (S5O-03728)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

The Scottish Prison Service is in the final stage of the purchase negotiation process to acquire a site for the new prison that will replace HMP Barlinnie. The site is the former gas works in Provanmill, Glasgow, which is currently owned by National Grid.

It is the SPS’s intention to submit a planning application by the end of 2019 and to be able to conclude the site purchase by summer 2020. Obviously, that is subject to obtaining planning consent.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

The Justice Committee visited Barlinnie this week and we were concerned by many things, not least the overcrowding. However, it is important to note the calibre and professionalism of the staff and officers.

Given the serious warnings about the state of Barlinnie and the repeated warnings about overcrowding in prisons, is the cabinet secretary able to confirm that his solution is not to open the gates to particular prisoners and to let prisoners out before their court-mandated release date?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I can confirm that we are not going to release prisoners en masse. That is almost a daft question to ask, I think. I also say to the member that shedding crocodile tears on overcrowding when his party’s regressive justice polices would add 3,000 additional prisoners to a system that is already overcrowded and when his party has not committed to building a single new prison is, I am afraid, just not a credible position for him to hold.

I entirely agree with the first part of the member’s question. Our prisons are overcrowded—Barlinnie in particular—and that is of huge concern to the Government. That is why we are putting in place progressive justice measures to reduce the prison population over the coming years. We will also look at interim measures for Barlinnie in particular to see how we can ensure that there is, for example, access to healthcare in the way that we would want and better reception facilities.

We will continue to do that work, and it would be nice if the Conservatives got behind our progressive justice policy, on which there is generally quite a strong consensus in the rest of the chamber, so that we can reduce the prison population over the years to come.