Council presses Scottish Government for timescale on Greenock prison build

Google, 2021

THE leader of Inverclyde Council has called on the Scottish Government to provide a timescale for the build of a new prison in Greenock.

It comes following a report on the 114-year-old existing facility, which highlighted the need for an ‘urgent’ replacement.

Carried out by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland, the primary concern identified was the ageing infrastructure and ‘unsuitable’ environment created by the fabric of the building.

The ‘continuing’ gradual loss of residential accommodation due to water ingress was also noted as being ‘deeply concerning’. The report noted that the Scottish Prison Service is investigating options to address the problem of water ingress in the residential area, but it is likely to be ‘costly’ and under current plans may only have a payback period of ten years until a replacement for HMP Greenock can be secured.

The Scottish Government purchased land from Inverclyde Council ten years ago with plans to use it as the site of the new prison. Councillor Stephen McCabe wrote to Keith Brown, cabinet secretary for Justice, seeking a firm timescale for the build of the new jail on the site.

He said, “The inspection of Greenock Prison was damning in its verdict of the prison building and full of praise for the hard working, dedicated staff.  HM chief inspector of prisons is clear that a replacement is needed much sooner than the current timescale.  The staff at the prison are being let down by the building and it is crucially important that a new prison is commissioned urgently.

“Plans have been in place, changed and dropped altogether to the point where there is no clarity about the new prison and what is happening with the land sold by the council for a replacement. I have written to the cabinet secretary to secure a firm timescale on when that will be following this inspection.”

Mr McCabe’s letter reads as follows:

Dear Cabinet Secretary,

You will no doubt be aware of the above inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland where the Inspectorate indicated that its ‘main concern relates to the ageing infrastructure and design of HMP Greenock and the unsuitable living and working environment created by the poor fabric of the building. Significant water ingress, numerous cells out of commission, and the state of some of the safer and annex cells indicates an urgent need to address the issue and provide a full replacement fit for the 21st Century penology. The benefits of HMP Greenock, including the good staff prisoner relationships and community links would be lost by simple closure even if the prison population were to reduce to manageable proportions. We would instead like to urge that a cost effective alternative solution is rapidly developed to replace HMP Greenock in the very near future as opposed to sinking further significant funds to enable HMP Greenock to limp along for another 10 years’. 

In recognition of the above recommendation by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland, I would ask on behalf of Inverclyde Council, that the Scottish Government confirms the timescale for replacing HMP Greenock on the site purchased from the Council in Greenock 10 years ago by the Scottish Prison Service.