Inverness and Nairn MSP, Fergus Ewing, has welcomed the announcement by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) on their proposal for a new site for the Inverness prison.

Mr Ewing said:

 “ I have been campaigning for a new prison for some time and during the Scottish Parliament election campaign last year said that I thought the site proposed by the SPS at that time for Milton of Leys was not the right one.

I suggested that a more central location was appropriate, being more accessible for those working there and to visitors and to be closer to the site of the new justice centre.

I met the CEO of the SPS shortly after the election last year, together with representatives of the local campaign against the MOL site, and suggested that their application be paused to enable time for consideration to be given to finding a more suitable site. They agreed to that whilst they investigated the possibility of a more suitable. This plainly took a considerable amount of time. It involved a great deal of work. I continued to engage with them behind the scenes during all of that period to encourage them to move the proposed site from their original selected site at MOL to a more suitable one.

I am very pleased that these representations were heeded and then acted on. Now the proposed site is the subject of a new application and it is of course for the local authority to consider this, but it appears on the face of it that it is a much more suitable site. I will listen carefully to any views expressed to me as the local MSP by my constituents, but it is the council that is the elected planning authority and will take this forward. So the decision whether to grant permission is for the council to take. From my work in the background, I am hopeful that this site has advantages, and will be seen to be more suited. For example, for visitors to prisoners, such as wives partners and children, I think it would be much more accessible and possibly less potentially stigmatising for the visits to be at the new proposed location than out of town where they would travel probably by bus for the purpose of visits.

I have worked hard to try to bring about the result of a more suitable site and am pleased to have played a part in what I hope will be the selection of a better place for the new proposed prison.

I must thank the SPS staff who have devoted a great amount of time and effort to this work. Over the years I have visited the existing Porterfield prison on numerous occasions, the prison officers and other staff there will I am sure welcome a more accessible site. Obviously there is much more to be done prior to the agreement for the building of the new prison but this is a major milestone on that journey.

Alongside the new justice campus this is an enormous proposed investment in the city by the Scottish Government and it also paves the way for the castle to become vacant to enable the future development of it for the purposes of a major tourism attraction for the city.”

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