CONDITIONS in one of Scotland’s Victorian prisons are “gravely concerning” and must be addressed as a matter of “urgency” according to the convener of a cross party committee of MSPs who visited the facility yesterday.

Margaret Mitchell, the convener of Holyrood’s justice committee, said there were “unacceptable” levels of overcrowding at HMP Barlinnie in Glasgow which is currently holding 1400 inmates but was built for 987.

Speaking after the visit, the Tory MSP said: “The conditions in HMP Barlinnie are gravely concerning. Whilst the committee pays tribute to the hard work of the staff, it is not an environment conducive to rehabilitating prisoners.

"The prison is not designed for modern-day needs and is unacceptably overcrowded, with prisoners sharing small, cramped cells and using dilapidated facilities.

“The committee has taken a wide look at post-conviction spending and will make detailed recommendations in due course. However, it is clear the issues at Barlinnie, in particular, will have to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

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Scotland has one of the highest per-capita prison populations in western Europe with some 8270 men and women held in a system designed for 7676 prisoners.

Last June, legislation was passed aimed at reducing the number of prisoners serving sentences of less than 12 months by introducing a presumption against this length of sentence. The move could decrease the number of people in custody.

Recent reports on Scottish Prisons from both Audit Scotland and the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) have highlighted substantial overcrowding, high levels of staff absences, falling levels of educational and employment activities and the prevalence of drugs and violence.

MSPs visited Barlinnie as part of ongoing work looking at the Scottish Government’s spending on prisons. They are expected to agree their final report on post-conviction funding in the coming weeks. Previously, the committee heard that a replacement for Barlinnie is not expected to open until the end of 2024 or 2025.