Prison Planned for Inverness, Scotland

INVERNESS, Scotland — Scottish officials seek a site for a new prison to replace an overcrowded facility in Inverness. The government estimates the cost of the new facility at £52m.

HM Prison Inverness, also known as Porterfield Prison, is one of the most overcrowded prisons in Scotland. It is the main prison serving rural and urban communities, including the Highlands, Western Isles, Orkney Isles, and Moray. The prison opened in 1902, having relocated from nearby Inverness Castle, and is situated near Inverness’s city center. It is the smallest penal establishment in Scotland and houses male inmates serving up to four years and female inmates serving up to two years. It has a cell capacity of 104 and a population averaging 150.

The Scottish Prison Services (SPS) in 2008 announced plans to replace Porterfield with the new HMP Highland prison. HMP Highland will take all categories of inmates, including women and young offenders. In September, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the government to identify a site for the facility sometime between 2012 and 2015.

“The construction works for HMP Highland will commence following the acquisition of a site and planning permission for this development and the subsequent completion of a procurement process for the award of a construction contract. A date for the commencement of construction works will be set following completion of these events,” said MacAskill.

Highland & Labour Member of Scottish Parliament David Stewart said, “HMP Porterfield, Inverness, is currently bursting at the seams, so it is important that work progresses to identify and acquire a new site as soon as possible. At least now we know that this will happen in the next four years, but hopefully the government will undertake this work sooner rather than later.”

Stewart also voiced concerns that any government delays could push the cost of the project beyond £52m.

In January, the SPS learned it could not build the project on land designated for a new academic and research campus in Inverness. It had been negotiating with landowner Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) about building the prison at Beechwood, but HIE decided it did not have a strategic fit with its vision and offered to help SPS find another site.

The Edinburgh-based SPS was established in 1993 and is an Agency of the Scottish government. It is charged with securing custody and good order within prisons, while caring for prisoners with humanity and delivering opportunities that provide the best chance to reduce re-offending once a prisoner returns to the community. SPS has 13 publicly managed prisons and two privately managed prisons.