Wait for Barlinnie jail replacement ‘could cost taxpayers £15 million’

HMP Barlinnie. Picture: John Devlin.
HMP Barlinnie. Picture: John Devlin.
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A five-year wait to open a replacement prison for the ageing Barlinnie jail in Glasgow could end up costing taxpayers £15 million, Scottish Labour has claimed.

Colin McConnell, chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), told MSPs last week that a new facility would be expected to open by 2025.

Barlinnie, Scotland’s largest prison, first opened in 1882 and has gradually expanded in the decades since.

It has long been viewed as outdated, with serious overcrowding issues in recent years.

In 2018, the Scottish Government announced plans to sell the current site and relocate the jail to another area in Glasgow or its surroundings. McConnell told Holyrood’s justice committee that over the past decade, £30m has been spent on Barlinnie “to keep it functioning to a reasonable standard”.

Based on current spending trends, Scottish Labour projects that the Scottish Prison Service will now need to fork out an additional £15m simply on maintenance before the new prison is ready.

The party estimates that the £15m could pay for more than 100 new prison officers every year, or the entire annual budget of £13.6 million for the government’s Community Justice Service and Programme – covering services including HDC and statutory bail – with £1.4m left over.

Scottish Labour justice spokesman, James Kelly, said: “The SNP’s mismanagement of our prisons will cost taxpayers millions of pounds.

“This is public money that could be spent on more than 100 new prison officers, not keeping a crumbling Victorian jail open.

“From start to finish the SNP have mismanaged the replacement of Barlinnie.

“That failure has cost taxpayers millions and left prisoners to be housed in overcrowded cells.

“It’s time for the justice secretary to get to grips with this construction project.

A spokesman for Humza Yousaf, the cabinet secretary for justice, said: “We are taking no lectures from Labour as they signed off PFI HMP Addiewell at almost £1 billion for a £80m building – that will leave Scottish taxpayers paying way over the score for years to come.

“We are clear the replacement for HMP Barlinnie is an infrastructure priority as part of measures to modernise and improve Scotland’s prison estate.

“The SPS is progressing with plans for the development of HMP Glasgow and negotiations for purchase of an identified site are under way.”