The First Minister said he was confident a replacement for Glasgow’s dilapidated Barlinne Prison would eventually be built, but acknowledged “high inflation” and labor shortages were a problem.
The Herald announced on Saturday that in a new update from the Scottish Government on major infrastructure projects, the timelines and costs of the HMP Glasgow program have been scrapped.
Since early 2021, the Government had forecast that construction of the 1200 place facility would begin in late 2023 and open in late 2026 and would require a capital investment of £400m.
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However, the cost now depends on a rough business case being completed while both the start and finish dates are yet to be “confirmed”.
A footnote reads, “The delivery dates previously included have been removed due to current discussions of changing the program to match the allocated budget profile.”
On BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, Mr Yousaf was asked about the Scottish Government’s ability to deliver on major projects, including two delayed CalMac ferries and the widening of the A9.
Moderator Martin Geissler then brought up the Herald’s story about HMP Glasgow.
He said: “This now appears to be another infrastructure project with a big question mark over it. When will this be built? And how much will that cost? Do you know?”
The First Minister did not answer any of the questions conclusively, blaming external factors, although one of the main causes of problems at HMP Glasgow was the struggle to acquire land.
Mr Yousaf said: “We have come back and we continue to say that infrastructure projects across the country – this is not unique to Scotland – are undoubtedly affected by the fact that we have high inflation.
“Obviously this is not the result of anything the Scottish Government has done, it is undoubtedly the result of the UK Government’s actions.
“In fairness, global factors also play a role when it comes to what impacted construction.”
Asked if he was still confident that the new prison would be built, Mr Yousaf said: “Yes, I am confident that we will build Barlinnie.
“But there are a number of investment projects – not only because of the high cost of inflation, of course not only because of the global factors that have affected construction – but we have undoubtedly had difficulties in construction because of the human resources challenges that are facing we stand.
“Again, migration is not controlled by the Scottish Government.
“So there are a number of infrastructure project challenges that governments across the UK are facing, but I am confident that a new Barlinnie will be built.”
Opposition parties claimed the project was “in disarray” and “turning into a farce”.
The 130-year-old prison is the largest in Scotland and houses around a fifth of the country’s 7,700 inmates.
Capacity is typically around 50 percent, which means overcrowding is common and the poor condition of the building requires millions of dollars in remodeling and repairs to be spent each year.
HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland describes the five Victorian prison wards as ‘not fit for purpose’ and requiring ‘significant investment’.
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The Scottish Government has been working on plans to replace it for more than a decade.
In 2015 it was priced at £170m and construction was due to start in 2018.
Teresa Medhurt, chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service, told MSPs in November that construction inflation was at 25-30% and the Scottish Government needed to have a “serious discussion” about the cost of HMP Glasgow.
She warned there was a “potential gap” in equity funding in 2024/25 and 2025/26.
The Scottish Government has said new estimated costs and timetables will be published once a final draft is available.