Page last updated at 02:39 GMT, Monday, 2 February 2009

Prisons 'dangerously overcrowded'

Prisoner in cell
Many prisons were above their design capacity

The Liberal Democrats have claimed that half of Scotland's prisons were dangerously overcrowded in the last three months of 2008.

Lib Dem justice spokesperson Robert Brown said figures showed all Scotland's closed prisons were over-capacity between October and December.

The Scottish Government accused Mr Brown of hypocrisy.

A spokesman claimed the "overcrowding problem built up over the eight years of the Lib Dem/Labour coalition".

Mr Brown said the figures also revealed that Dumfries, Glenochil, Greenock, Inverness, Kilmarnock, Peterhead and Polmont prisons were all working above their Assessed Operational Limit (AOL).

He said: "It is disappointing that the SNP Government still hasn't taken effective action to address the overcrowding crisis in Scotland's prisons.

"It is unacceptable that all of Scotland's prisons are operating above their design capacity and half are working above their AOL. The SNP must not delay any longer in addressing this issue."

The figures were issued to Mr Brown in answer to two parliamentary questions.

'Safer Scotland'

But a spokesperson for Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said Mr Brown was making "hypocritical assertions."

He said: "Robert Brown must hope people have short memories, because the prison overcrowding problem built up over the eight years of the Lib Dem/Labour coalition, as well as the 18 years when the Tories were in power, during which not a single new prison opened in Scotland.

"The SNP Government are investing 120m a year in improving the Scottish prison estate, including building three new prisons.

"Addiewell has recently opened, Bishopbriggs will be built in the public sector - instead of the privatised prison Labour and the Liberals were proposing - and we have ended decades of uncertainty by announcing a new public sector prison for the North East.

"As well as tougher community sentences to make sure that appropriate lawbreakers pay back their debt to society through hard work, these decisions lay the foundations for a safer Scotland and a prison system fit for the 21st century."

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