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Government u-turn on Inverclyde sets Scottish Prison Service back £5million

Government u-turn on Inverclyde sets Scottish Prison Service back £5million

A Scottish Government u-turn on the future shape of Scotland’s female prison estate has cost the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) almost £5million, Holyrood can reveal.

Annual accounts published by the SPS show a decision earlier this year to shelve plans for a new national prison at Inverclyde led to design fees of over £1.25m being written off.

The land site at Inverclyde also “suffered” an impairment charge – which is incurred where assets reduce in value – of more than £3m, according to their 2014-15 accounts.

Meanwhile a ‘constructive loss’ – which occurs when an item is acquired and paid for only to then be of less use or value than when procurement took place  of almost £450,000 accompanied a decision not to go ahead with a regional unit for women from the east and south east of Scotland.

Former Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill announced in October 2012 that a new women’s prison was to be built at Inverclyde and two new specialist units set up at Edinburgh and Grampian prisons.

However, his successor Michael Matheson scrapped the Inverclyde proposal in January of this year amid fierce criticism from opposition parties and groups such as Howard League Scotland over the proposed 300-place prison​.

“This change in Scottish Government policy resulted in a write-off of the design fees incurred to date of £1,256k from Assets under Construction,” notes SPS’ annual accounts.

“Additionally, following completion of the demolition and enabling works, the Valuation Office Agency valued the site resulting in an impairment charge of £3,073k.”

An impairment charge is made where an event or change in circumstances reduces the value of an asset below the amount it would generate from its use or sale.

Matheson announced last month that a new national facility capable of holding 80 female offenders is to be built at Cornton Vale, with five community-based units accommodating up to 20 women each dotted around the country.

However, the decision also meant that existing plans for a women’s regional unit at Edinburgh would not go ahead, resulting in a further ‘constructive loss’ of £441,000 according to the SPS accounts.

The fresh proposals outlined by Matheson a few weeks ago are to be backed by capital investment of up to £82m, according to the Scottish Government.

Details are still to be mapped out as to where the five regional units will be based, though the fact a new national facility will be located at Cornton Vale – a site already owned by SPS – will undoubtedly reduce costs.

An SPS spokeswoman said: “Initial costs were incurred in planning a national women’s prison at Inverclyde and a regional unit in Edinburgh.

“Following the announcement by the Cabinet Secretary that this was no longer the direction of travel, these costs have been impaired.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The smaller community-based custodial units will provide accommodation as women serve out their sentence, with access to intensive support to help overcome issues such as alcohol, drugs, mental health and domestic abuse trauma which evidence shows can often be a driver of offending behaviour.

“The units will be located in areas close to the communities of female offenders so that family contact can be maintained.”

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