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The Scottish Government remains committed to modernising and improving Scotland’s prison estate, with current infrastructure priorities being the development of the female estate and replacements for HMP Barlinnie and HMP Highland. In that respect, we have increased the Scottish Prison Service’s capital budget by £31.3 million this year to help it deliver progressive plans for the development of our new female custodial estate, including a new national female prison to replace Cornton Vale.
Compared with 2010-2011, the cumulative real-terms reduction in capital grant funding for Scotland over the past decade is £5 billion.
The process to replace Barlinnie in Glasgow has taken 10 years to date, and there have been reports that no such replacement will be available for a further five years. The prison’s age means that it is expensive to maintain and there is a high risk of failure in some parts of the building, including the drainage and sewerage systems. If those were to fail, what is the contingency plan for accommodating the prisoners whom Barlinnie currently holds?
Rachael Hamilton raises some important issues. I am aware of the condition of Barlinnie and have some concerns, and I have of course visited the prison and spoken to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland about it. Given my concerns, I have asked the chief executive of the SPS to provide me with the details of interim measures that we could fund.
Rachael Hamilton is absolutely right: with the best will in the world, it will take a number of years to purchase a site—which is being done—and construct a replacement prison for Barlinnie. We will put interim measures in place.
I give her an assurance that we ask questions about and plan for scenarios such as the one that she mentioned, so we have contingency plans available. She will forgive me for not speaking publicly about where we would potentially transfer prisoners to, for obvious reasons, such as that Barlinnie has a number of serious organised crime nominals. However, I am happy to say that that work is part of the SPS’s remit and I am satisfied that we have contingency plans in place.