Highlands & Islands

Site still being sought for new prison in Highlands

Wall of Inverness Prison Image copyright dr neil clifton/Geograph
Image caption Inverness Prison is one of the oldest in Scotland

The Scottish Prison Service has said a number of sites are being considered for a new prison in the Highlands.

It has been six years since the plan to replace 112-year-old HMP Inverness was announced.

Earlier this week, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland David Strang said the jail had problems with overcrowding and needed repairs.

The SPS said it was working on finding a suitable new site.

Spokesman Tom Fox told BBC Radio Scotland: "We require to identify a site before we can begin the procurement process to find someone to build a new prison, and that is not something we are going to be able to achieve overnight.

"I think it is fair to say the Scottish government has been very generous to the prison service over the last few years in terms of allowing us to do a major refurb of our estate."

Mr Fox said before funding could be sought from the government for a new prison in the Highlands, a site would have been found, the land bought and outline planning permission for the building approved.

Conservative Highlands MSP Mary Scanlon said a replacement prison was "essential".

She said over the last 15 years the 103-prisoner-capacity jail "had regularly" held up to 150 to 160 prisoners.

The MSP said: "Inverness Prison is the smallest and one of the oldest in Scotland."

In 2010, the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) was told it could not build a new prison on land where a new academic and research campus is being built in Inverness.

The SPS had been in discussion with landowner Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) about constructing the jail at Beechwood.

HIE said the plan was given serious consideration but it did not have "a strong strategic fit" with its vision.

It offered to help the SPS find another site.

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