A site has been purchased on the east side of Inverness; early procurement activity is under way; the tendering process is due to commence later this spring; and we expect that enabling construction work will start this autumn. Our new infrastructure investment plan for Scotland, “A National Mission with Local Impact: Infrastructure Investment Plan for Scotland 2021-22 to 2025-26”, which we published on 4 February, sets out the operational date for HMP Highland, which is estimated as February 2024.
In 2011, the prison was due to cost £52 million; in 2016, the cost had gone up to £66 million; and in 2021, it has risen to £110 million. The cabinet secretary promised the delivery of the prison before the last election and promised it again in 2018, and it sounds like he is promising it now. What promise can he give—that can be believed—that it will be completed by 2024?
Edward Mountain has done his best to cast doubt on the building of a new prison for Inverness but, despite his somewhat deliberate mischief, the naysayer has been proven wrong once again. I am delighted that the Scottish Government has confirmed our intention to fund and build HMP Highland, and its inclusion in the Scottish Government’s infrastructure investment plan is testament to our commitment.
I plead with Mr Mountain to take a more constructive approach—as, for example, the MSP for Inverness and Nairn, Fergus Ewing, has done. He has engaged constructively with the Scottish Government and the Scottish Prison Service, and in doing so he has made a persuasive case for HMP Highland’s inclusion in the infrastructure investment plan. I am pleased to see that progress is being made in replacing HMP Inverness. That progress will not only continue, but will be funded by this SNP-led Scottish Government.
As the member may be aware, there is a current outbreak of Covid-19 in HMP Dumfries. To give her some confidence, I assure her that I am in regular contact with the SPS’s interim chief executive, Teresa Medhurst, in relation to the outbreaks in HMP Dumfries, HMP Kilmarnock and HMP Addiewell.
We are keeping a close eye on what more needs to be done in HMP Dumfries to ensure that the outbreak does not spread any further. I am confident that we have in place the appropriate health guidance to ensure that we can manage that outbreak, but if Emma Harper would like any further detailed information on the situation at HMP Dumfries, I can ensure that the SPS makes itself available to her.