HOPES were raised yesterday of a "super prison" being built at Peterhead to replace the town's Victorian jail as well as Aberdeen's Craiginches Prison.
Cathy Jamieson, the justice minister, announced that the Scottish Prison Service is to consult on a range of options for the future of the service in the North-east.
Campaigners in the Buchan town hope that the review will lead to a decision to demolish Craiginches and Peterhead prisons, Scotland's main unit for the incarceration of sex offenders, and to build a new facility on the outskirts of Peterhead.
Conditions at Peterhead Prison have been consistently criticised by the Scottish Prisons Inspectorate, while Craiginches prison has frequently suffered from lack of space and was once branded the most overcrowded jail in the country. It was 65 per cent over capacity in February 2004.
The minister's commitment to a review of the current service came in a parliamentary answer in response to a question tabled by Stewart Stevenson, the SNP MSP for Banff and Buchan.
Mr Stevenson said yesterday: "A new-build jail for Peterhead is the lead option.
"It is very good news for the North-east. It should be two prisons on the one site.
"We have a very large area we can develop at the prison at Peterhead, with a sex offenders unit as one part of the prison and a general prison as another part."
He added: "The staff at Peterhead prison have an excellent track record. Now they need the modern premises that will enable them to build on success and further ensure public safety.
"Peterhead Prison already provides hundreds of breadwinner jobs for the town and contributes around 12 million to the local economy.
"A new jail will mean a substantial increase in employment and is possibly worth 20 million to the local economy."