Replacing Scotland’s women-only prison is set to cost millions more than originally planned, according to newly released figures.
The bill for replacing HMP Cornton Vale, the jail which attracted controversy this week after transgender double rapist Isla Bryson was housed there before being moved to a men’s facility, was in October £7 million over its initial £74 million budget.
The £81.8 million estimated final bill was revealed after a freedom of information request by the Scottish Conservatives submitted in autumn last year was released on Sunday.
As well as costing more than originally planned, the party said, the replacement facility HMP Stirling is also more than two years late.
Originally planned to be operational by the end of 2020, it is now expected to open this summer.
There is one women-only prison north of the border, which holds the majority of female prisoners.
Some women are also held at HMP Edinburgh, HMP Greenock, and HMP Grampian.
A row erupted earlier this week after Bryson was moved into HMP Cornton Vale.
The convict, who is understood to have now been moved to a male wing at Edinburgh prison, was put in the women-only jail after being found guilty of raping two women, one in 2016 and one in 2019, when she was a man named Adam Graham.
Russell Findlay, the Scottish Conservative community safety spokesman, said the First Minister “must now use the belated opening of the new women’s prison to guarantee that no rapist will ever be housed in any women’s prison in Scotland”.
He added: “The debate in relation to a double rapist this week should never have had to happen. But if the SNP had managed the Stirling prison project in the right manner, then Cornton Vale would already have been consigned to history.
“The SNP are not interested in prioritising matters of justice and it is taxpayers who will have to pick up the bill for their errors in relation to Stirling.
“Nicola Sturgeon and (Justice Secretary) Keith Brown should urgently confirm that the timescales for a women’s prison opening in Stirling have not slipped any further and guarantee it will never house a rapist.”
In an interview with Global’s The News Agents podcast broadcast on Friday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she supports “as a general principle” that those who rape women are barred from women’s prisons.
A Scottish Prison Service (SPS) spokesman said HMP Stirling would be the third purpose-built facility for women, and when opened would be founded on the principle that “services should be designed especially for the needs of women, and also take account of their likely experience of adversity and trauma”.
He added: “The new HMP & YOI Stirling will have this approach at its heart. It will also be smaller, more modern, and with better facilities than HMP & YOI Cornton Vale, which was built in 1975.
“It will help give women in our care the best possible chance of a successful rehabilitation and safe, eventual return to our communities.
“There is a lot of hard work ahead, but with the support of the Scottish Government and the hard work of partners and staff, we are determined to deliver for those in our care, for the communities we serve, and for wider Scotland.”
And a Scottish Government spokesman said: “The new HMP & YOI Stirling is set for opening this summer and will mark another important step change in the management of women in custody.
“The First Minister made clear in Parliament that she does not believe that someone convicted of rape should be accommodated in a female prison.
“SPS is working with partners including the Scottish Government on the review of their policy on managing transgender prisoners and that process is nearing completion.”
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