HMP Highland (Budget)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 31 January 2024.

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Photo of Edward Mountain Edward Mountain Conservative

3. To ask the Scottish Government whether it anticipates that the total cost of HMP Highland will remain within the £139.5 million budget by its planned completion in June 2025. (S6O-03032)

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

We do not anticipate that the total cost of HMP Highland will remain within £139.5 million. The Scottish Prison Service is making good progress on the new state-of-the-art prison. However, like many large-scale capital projects, the project continues to face supply chain and labour market challenges, as well as increased costs due to inflation. That is consistent with the position of large-scale projects of such a nature globally. The costs of the construction contract are currently being finalised, and the contract award is scheduled to take place thereafter.

Photo of Edward Mountain Edward Mountain Conservative

I am somewhat surprised by that answer.

We have seen the budget for the new prison go from £86 million to £110 million to £139.5 million, and we have seen the completion date go from 2023 to 2025. If the cabinet secretary checked the Government website, she would see that it has been confirmed that there will be another delay and that the new prison will not be operational until 2026, rather than—as I mentioned in my question—2025. Can we really believe that, with another year’s delay, the price will not go up, as it has done over consecutive years during the design process?

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

I know that Mr Mountain regularly asks questions with respect to the replacement of HMP Inverness, and I very much welcome members championing the local prison resource in their local communities.

However, although the delay has not been within anybody’s control, it is important to recognise that it is due not just to the pandemic but to the time that it has taken the contractor to secure prices in a very challenging market condition.

I hasten to add that there are some things, such as Brexit, inflation, hostile immigration policy and the cost of living crisis, that are not within my gift. The cost of construction labour in the UK rose by 30 per cent between 2015 and 2022, in comparison to a rise of 14 per cent in European countries. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s construction material price index has shown, for example, that the price of precast concrete has risen by 56 per cent and the price of doors and windows has risen by 52 per cent.

The Presiding Officer:

Briefly, please, cabinet secretary.

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

I very much look forward to that progress being implemented.

Photo of Baroness Katy Clark Baroness Katy Clark Labour

The Scottish Government has committed to prison replacement at Inverness and Glasgow but not Greenock. I know that the cabinet secretary has visited Greenock and is aware of what His Majesty’s chief inspector of prisons has said about cells there being not suitable for human habitation. Will she provide an update on what work is being done and what consideration is being given to an allocation within the capital budget?

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

As, I hope, I have explained to Ms Clark, the Parliament and the Criminal Justice Committee, significant financial and operational pressures have meant that the priority in replacing prisons is the new HMP Highland and the new HMP Glasgow.

There is recognition of the challenges in HMP Greenock, which the member narrated, and remedial action will, of course, be undertaken to maintain the estate, but there is no imminent plan to replace HMP Greenock, because, at this point, the priority is HMP Highland and, crucially, the new HMP Glasgow.