Glasgow’s Barlinnie prison is to be replaced by 2025, a Holyrood committee has heard.
The Justice committee were told on Tuesday, by the Justice Secretary and chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service, Colin McConnell, that a deal to buy land for the new jail was in its “final stages.”
Plans to relocate to another area in Glasgow from the current prison, which was built in 1882, were announced last year.
Overcrowding has been a major issue at Barlinnie, with the 987-capacity jail reported as having a population of 1,449 in April.
In response to a question from Glasgow MSP James Kelly, Mr McConnell said: “We’re in the final knockings, the final stages to buy the land on which to build the new Barlinnie.”
He added: “I’m delighted to say that the Scottish Government has given us every indication that the forward plan for Barlinnie, now that we effectively have somewhere to build it, will be fully funded.
“We expect, with a fair wind, that we should have a new Barlinnie by the end of 2024, perhaps 2025.”
Mr McConnell cautioned the committee against sticking too close to the 2025 deadline however, saying “uncertainties in the marketplace” could result in the project taking longer to build.
A presentation was made to the Scottish Government in 2011 for the replacement of Barlinnie and work has been ongoing since that time to secure a suitable site on which to build.
Mr McConnell said: “It would be easy to simply point the finger at the Scottish government and perhaps ourselves and see we’re clearly not very good at what we’re doing.
“But as ever, it’s more complex than that.
“It has actually taken us that length of time to identify a site that someone was prepared to sell us and which we thought was suitable to buy.
“Here we are, eight years down the line and it’s taken us that length of time to get a site.”
Mr McConnell also said it took 10 years to secure a site for HMP Highland.
He added: “It’s not like ourselves and the Scottish Government have been sitting on our hands waiting for some magic pixie dust to come in and solve everything. These things take an incredible amount of time.”
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf also said in a later session he had “grave concern” about the current state of Barlinnie.
He said: “I know we’re investing in Barlinnie, SPS have made progress in terms of the site, we’re providing the funding.
“But Colin McConnell is absolutely right, with the best will in the world we’re looking at 2024-25.
“I’m happy once we’ve done that piece of work – we’re in the middle of doing it – to provide the committee with a bit more detail.
“Because I have visited Barlinnie and I am not satisfied that it meets our expectations of what we would expect in relation to the prison estate.”