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WATCH: Costs of "desperately needed" replacement prison in Inverness set to exceed £140 million budget

By Federica Stefani

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A computer image of the new HMP Highland to be built near Inverness Centre retail park.
A computer image of the new HMP Highland to be built near Inverness Centre retail park.

The costs for the creation of a new prison in Inverness will not remain within the estimated budget, the Scottish Government’s justice secretary admitted today.

After being delayed for several years, it was admitted by Angela Constance at Holyrood that the Government "does not anticipate" that the total cost for the new HMP Highland infrastructure will remain within the budget of £139.5 million.

This comes after an Audit Scotland report published in September made it clear that Scottish Government investment plans – among which dualling the A9 and creating a new prison in Inverness – were no longer affordable.

Responding in Holyrood to a question from Highlands and Islands MSP Edward Mountain, Ms Constance said: “The Scottish Prison Service is making progress on the new state-of-the-art prison, however like many large scale capital projects it continues to face supply chain and labour market challenges and increased costs due to inflation.

"This is consistent with large scale projects of this nature globally the costs of and the contract are currently being finalised and the contract award is scheduled to take place thereafter."

She also pointed to Brexit and the “hostile immigration” policy of the UK Government as concurring factors for the delays.

The opening date for the new jail has also has also slipped back to 2026 – from the original timeframe of 2025.

In December 2022, projected costs for the HMP Highland project had risen to the current budget from an initially expected range of £98 million to £110 million.

Ms Constance did not confirm what the new increased cost was estimated to be.

When the project was initially announced n 2011, it was estimated it would cost around £52 million.

Scottish Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Edward Mountain said: “A replacement prison in Inverness is desperately needed.

“Yet more than a decade after it was agreed, the costs have soared yet again, and the timescale continues to slip.

“That means the prison won’t be able to do its job in the meantime, and makes the rehabilitation of inmates extremely hard.

“That in turn puts prison officers at increased risk, making an already challenging job even tougher.

“The SNP has been in charge of justice since 2007 and has no-one else to blame but itself for these failings.

“It’s ridiculous for the Scottish Government to cite Brexit and immigration policy for its own failures to deliver key capital projects.”

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