NICOLA Sturgeon today confirmed that controversial plans for a new womens’ “super prison” are facing the axe as she seeks to drive down the number of female inmates in Scotland.
But claims that the 300-cell facility will be axed tomorrow have been dismissed by the Scottish Government.
The Scottish Prison Service plans to create a new jail at HMP Inverclyde before closing women-only Cornton Vale, but it has met with growing opposition.
Ms Sturgeon said today she wanted to see fewer Scots jailed and was “looking carefully” at the proposed new scheme in Greenock after Tory MSP Murdo Fraser suggested it will be ditched tomorrow.
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has said he is considering the issue “very carefully”, the First Minister said, after Labour recently stepped up calls for the project to be axed.
“I think it is absolutely correct that as a new justice secretary he takes time to do that,” Ms Sturgeon said at First Ministers Questions.
“It will not come as any surprise to anybody in this chamber to know that it’s an issue Michael Matheson and indeed myself as First Minister and the Government have been looking at carefully.
“We want to make sure that the decision taken here is the right decision.
“I also want to make clear that my view is that all of us across this chamber should be determined to work to reduce not just the prison population generally but the female prison population in particular.”
Mr Fraser had raised the prospect of the scheme being formally axed tomorrow.
“Is it true that contractors working on the new women’s prison project in Greenock will be told tomorrow that the project is not now going ahead?” Mr Fraser asked.
But a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “These claims are untrue. The Cabinet Secretary for Justice is considering the final configuration of the new prison estate and this remains ongoing.”
But the Scottish Government said yesterday that the only contract currently in place is for the clearance of the former school buildings and site works which will be completed in early March.
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