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Questions asked over secretary’s ambitions for planned new Inverness Prison

By Tom Ramage

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MSP Edward Mountain.
MSP Edward Mountain.

Regional MSP Edward Mountain challenged the Cabinet Secretary for Justice to widen his ambitions for the redevelopment of the Scottish prison estate and secure funding to build the planned new Inverness Prison.

Mr Mountain has campaigned for HMP Highland to be built as a matter of urgency to resolve the overcrowding at the existing prison.

During a ministerial statement at Holyrood, Mr Mountain asked: “HMP Inverness is overflowing and cabinet secretary you bought a new site for HMP Highland at vast expense but you haven’t said yet when work will start on it.

"Are you able to do so now?

Cabinet secretary Humza Yousaf replied: “I hope Edward Mountain isn’t suggesting that I should be deprioritising the female custodial estate because that is currently the priority.

"But by pushing and suggesting that HMP Inverness should be funded right now for the next phase – there is a priority that is there.

"And of course HMP Inverness is within that priority but I hope he’d understand that the female custodial estate can’t be deprioritised because of HMP Inverness and neither can HMP Barlinnie be deprioritised because of HMP Inverness.

"There is an infrastructure plan there, that is there on absolute need, that is there in terms of what our priorities. HMP Inverness is certainly in amongst those top priorities.”

Afterwards Mr Mountain said: “I question the cabinet secretary’s limited ambitions for the prison estate across Scotland.

"The female custodial estate and HMP Barlinnie are priorities but the cabinet secretary should be making the case for HMP Highland to be top priority now alongside those two projects.

"The site has been purchased at vast expense and the planning permission has been granted. The project is ready to go, all it requires is funding."

The cabinet secretary, Mr Mountain argued, should be pushing his SNP government to commit funding for HMP Highland in the next Scottish Budget.

"I will continue to make the case for a new prison for the Highlands and if the cabinet secretary is really serious about HMP Highland too he will secure its funding in the next Scottish Budget,” Mr Mountain added.

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