High-security prison opens its doors to Hollywood

ALCATRAZ may be about to get a run for its money. A bleak former Scottish prison and its grounds are to become a movie set for rent at £500 a day.

The Longriggend High Security Remand Centre - with its twin, 20ft-high perimeter fences topped with razor wire, massive entrance doors and decrepit cells - was closed four years ago after prison service budget cuts.

But now it is being offered a new lease of life as a location for film productions.

Longriggend, a former tuberculosis sanatorium, was built by the Victorians on a remote Lanarkshire moor between Airdrie and Cumbernauld.

It held men aged 16 to 21 who were awaiting trial for a range of offences, from shoplifting to murder.

Unlike Alcatraz - the famous island prison in San Francisco Bay - it never had an escape.

Kevin Cowle, locations manager for public film agency Scottish Screen, said yesterday that Longriggend was a unique setting.

"We get a request every six to eight weeks from a film or advertising company to find prisons, prison cells and security fences.

"It is one of our most popular locations. Many human dramas end up or start behind bars."

He added: "Most of Scotland’s serious criminals will have been on remand in Longriggend before their trial. It’s very, very secure.

"I have been round the perimeter fence and into the compound, but not into the buildings. It was scary. A very frightening place to be.

"It’s an atmospheric place. It’s on a wild piece of moorland, and the only other buildings around it are what would have been the warders’ houses, most of which are empty.

"There is a certain bizarreness to the fact that this huge jail is in the middle of nowhere. We have already had inquiries to use it as a setting."

The remand centre held 158 prisoners at its busiest, but during its 40-year history it was plagued by riots, low staff morale and suicides.

Previous residents detained in Longriggend include notorious criminals Paul Ferris and Arthur Thompson Junior. But it was closed four years ago amid concern over mounting suicide rates under a tough regime.