Months of waiting brings news of Noranside closure

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AFTER months of speculation it has been confirmed that Noranside Open Prison will close.

The proposal to close Noranside was first announced by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) in December 2010 following a change of the criteria applied to offenders.

In the interests of public safety, new strict criteria means that the number of prisoners who qualify for open prison conditions has been reduced - making the Noranside facility obsolete.

The facility is not suitable to house any other type of prisoner without substantial investment.

Following representation from staff, unions and other partners, the SPS has looked carefully at the arrangements for progression to the open estate. They have also stated that they are satisfied new criteria and procedures are the right ones to protect the public.

There will be sufficient capacity at Castle Huntly to accommodate those prisoners eligible for the Open Estate.

All staff affected by the closure will be given the option to re-deploy to other sites across the prison estate.

Savings from the closure of Noranside will be re-invested into further improving the prison sentence including the opening of a new publicly run prison at Low Moss near Bishopbriggs next year.

John Ewing, chief executive for the Scottish Prison Service, has defended his decision to close the prison. He said: “I did not take lightly the decision to close Noranside but the SPS has a duty to secure the best value for taxpayers’ money.

“The hard-working, dedicated and professional team at Noranside will be given the opportunity to transfer to other parts of the estate or to opt for voluntary early severance.”

He added that there will be no compulsory redundancies.

The news of the closure has been met with dismay by Graeme Dey, Angus South MSP, who is concerned for the implications this will have for the staff, he said: “A considerable number of the prison officers and their families live in Angus South and I am concerned for all those involved.

“The uncertainty they have lived with over the past few months will be giving way to real anxiety over the future and I call on the senior management of the SPS to properly discharge their responsibilities to the staff.

“It is also concerning that the vast expertise Noranside officers have built up in dealing with sex offenders will now be scattered to the four winds, as staff we are led to believe are deployed across the Scottish prisons estate.”

All prisoners at Noranside will be transferred to the remaining open estate facility at Castle Huntly by October 31.