MSPs set to take on prisoners in football match at Kilmarnock prison

HMP Kilmarnock (Andrew Milligan / PA Wire)
HMP Kilmarnock (Andrew Milligan / PA Wire)

SCOTLAND’S politicians will face off against prisoners at HMP Kilmarnock for a one-off football match later this year.

Holyrood’s finest are set to play inmates and staff at the 500-capacity jail at the end of August.

Tory MSP Brian Whittle, who came up with the idea, said it would help highlight the positive work being done to reduce reoffending.

But he admitted he and his colleagues were expecting a drubbing.

“They have quite a lot of good footballers in there, which basically means we are done for,” he joked. “I would imagine it’s going to be a challenge for us.”

Mr Whittle – a former athlete who competed at the 1988 Olympics – hatched the plan after visiting the prison last month.

He spent three hours meeting staff and prisoners, witnessing the work being done to rehabilitate inmates.

He said: “The people I spoke to in the prison are so enthusiastic about showing you what they are doing.

“Some of the art they do is incredible.

“I think sport is a great way to highlight things that are going on in the community.

“It can be a very powerful tool for all sorts of things. Exercise is a huge thing in terms of both physical and mental health.

“I’m really interested in health inequality and looking at rehabilitation in the prison. Kilmarnock has a really good reputation for that.

“This is just another way of highlighting that people have skills.

“They might be paying a debt to society, but they are still people, and once they’ve paid that debt they need to be integrated back into society.

“We have to give them the tools to contribute to society.

“It might seem crass that a football match can impact on that, but it’s just highlighting the fact these people are important.”

HMP Kilmarnock – which is operated by Serco on behalf of the Scottish Prison Service – caters for a range of prisoners.

It offers work opportunities to help prepare inmates for life outside its walls.

Mr Whittle’s upcoming football match will see politicians arrive at around 11am before having lunch in the jail.

Half a dozen politicians and parliamentary staff have already agreed to turn out.

Mr Whittle added: “I’m trying to get a cross-party team so there’s no politics involved.”

Michael Guy, Serco’s contract director at HMP Kilmarnock, said: “We’re really looking forward to welcoming the parliamentarians here later in the summer.”