Job in jail's kitchen for disgraced Lord Watson

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DISGRACED Labour peer Lord Watson has landed a sought-after job working in the kitchens at Saughton Prison while he completes his 16-month jail sentence for wilful fire-raising.

Lord Mike Watson was handed the task of serving up food to 150 of his fellow inmates at Saughton as a "pantryman".

The job, which is considered one of the plum tasks among inmates, carries pay of around 8 a week.

The 56-year-old will carry out his daily duties at the serving counter of the kitchens while many other inmates spend their time scrubbing floors or laying bricks.

A source inside the jail said: "It's one of the best jobs in here. It's caused a bit of resentment among some of the other inmates because he got the job so quickly.

"He's been keeping out of trouble though and keeping his head down."

The source said there was no truth in suggestions that Lord Watson would be transferred to Barlinnie jail in Glasgow to be nearer his family.

"He was convicted at Edinburgh Sheriff Court so he will serve his time here. The only way he would be transferred to Barlinnie is if he asked to be

moved there himself. To the best of my knowledge, he's not done that."

Lord Watson was given the jail term last month after pleading guilty to deliberately setting fire to curtains at Prestonfield House Hotel. He claimed to have suffered an alcoholic blackout on the night of the incident and could not recall his actions.

But following a needs assessment interview at the prison, the former MSP was deemed suitable for food duties alongside a dozen other inmates.

The team, which also includes cooks, dish-washers and other assistants, prepares food for the 700 prisoners at Saughton who receive three meals a day.

A simple breakfast is offered up in the servery after 7.30am, consisting of cereal and a roll, which an inmate can eat in his cell or in communal seating areas situated on each floor.

Lunch is normally served between 11.30am and 1.30pm, while a two-course dinner gives the choice of three main courses.

Although his enforced stay at HMP Edinburgh is far removed from his luxurious lifestyle in the outside world, kitchen work is regarded as one of the easier options behind bars.

All inmates are required by prison rules to hold down a job or take a vocational or educational course.

Some spend the day as bricklayers in a bid to earn an SVQ while roofing work is also available. Industrial cleaning and laundry duties are two of the more laborious posts which Lord Watson has avoided.

During their induction period, each prisoner has a needs assessment which decides what job or course they will take.

The available jobs are listed then tailored to a person's offence and needs while they are locked up.

Prisoners can expect to earn a minimum of around 8 a week for their efforts while the highest paid may earn up to 18.

Those with a good attendance and behavioural record at their work can gain "promotion" to a more privileged job. But prisoners serving longer sentences tend to stand a better chance at gaining promotion as they have longer to prove themselves trustworthy.

A spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service said: "We do not comment on individual cases."