The old HMP Low Moss was closed in May 2007 following a Scottish Prison Service Estates Review in 2002 which concluded that it ought to be rebuilt to modern standards.
In June 2009 a £116m contract was awarded to Carillion Construction Ltd to build the new, 700-prisoner capacity maximum security prison, which is expected to open in 2011. Alongside the prison itself, the construction work included an exercise yard, sports facilities, landscaping, infrastructure, roads, a sewer system, site services and security.
The project to rebuild the prison has been plagued by funding problems, but my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I are campaigning to ensure that the SNP’s budget problems don’t affect the quality of the prison being built. It is of the uppermost importants that the people of Bishopbriggs can feel safe in the knowledge that there is no security risk to them.
The campaign against “HMP Bishopbriggs”
Jo hails victory of prison name campaign!
I am delighted that the Scottish Prison Service has decided to keep the name ‘HMP Low Moss’ for the new prison in Bishopbriggs. I’d like to thank everyone in the local community who has supported the campaign to stop the prison being named HMP Bishopbriggs. Lots of local people went out collecting signatures on my behalf, and more than 3000 people signed the petition. Here you can read all about how the campaign unfolded.
When the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) began plans to construct a new prison on the site of HMP Low Moss, the working title it gave to the project was HMP Bishopbriggs. Many residents of Bishopbriggs felt that calling it Bishopbriggs prison would bring negative connotations to the town’s name – a wonderful town with a good reputation for its strong community ties.
Calling Mr MacAskill…
- In November 2008, I wrote a letter to Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill asking him to keep the name HMP Low Moss for the new prison, and abandon “HMP Bishopbriggs”. You can read that letter here:
- The SPS responded to my letter with a refusal to change the working title for the prison, and did not acknowledge the high level of public opposition to the name.
The petition begins
- It was clear that a mass grassroots campaign would be necessary to get the SPS to change its position. I started a petition against the name and delivered it to every house in Bishopbriggs, and it quickly attracted hundreds of signatures as news of the campaign spread. Woodhill Residents’ Group also ran a fantastic campaign with their own petition, and raised a great deal of public support.
- Tavish Scott backed my campaign in January 2009, saying “there is clearly a need for the Justice Secretary to intervene by scrapping the proposal for the new prison name.”
- Kenny MacAskill continued to ignore my letters urging him to intervene, passing them on to the Scottish Prison Service in the grounds that he believed it was an operational matter, and not a political one. In order to make him understand how important it was to the people of Bishopbriggs, I invited Mr MacAskill to meet with members of Woodhill Residents’ Group to hear their concerns.
- The man of the moment, Vince Cable, paid a visit to East Dunbartonshire in February 2009 and showed his support for the campaign, saying: “It is clear to me even from this brief visit that the people of Bishopbriggs feel very strongly about the renaming of Low Moss Prison. I’m impressed by the momentum the campaign has gathered and I hope that the Scottish Government and the Scottish Prison Service will listen to Jo Swinson and her constituents and make the right decision.”
- Kenny MacAskill snubbed the people of Bishopbriggs by ignoring my invitation to meet with local people, instead passing it on to the SPS, so I invited them instead to meeting with me and Woodhill Residents’ Group.
- Despite having already met with SNP Councillors over the matter, the SPS refused to set up a meeting with me, saying it wanted to avoid accusations of party political bias! SPS Chief executive Mike Ewart did however agree to hold a public meeting to discuss the issue. I urged him to hold the meeting as soon as possible, but to the frustration of local people, the SPS fell silent on the matter. Meanwhile, the number of signatures on my petition ran into the thousands.
- The SPS told me it would not respond to me any further on the issue as it felt this had become a political matter, and Kenny MacAskill still refused to get involved because he believed it was not a political matter! One had to wonder – is anyone in charge here?
Over to the NSCJA
- Finally, in April 2009, the SPS asked the North Strathclyde Community Justice Authority (NSCJA) to come up with three suggestions for a name for the prison. I sent my petition, which by this time had gathered more than 3000 signatures, to the NSCJA convenor Douglas Yates, along with a letter urging him and his colleagues to recommend the old name, HMP Low Moss, for the new prison.
- Councillor Douglas Yates said he was not able to reveal the three names the NSCJA recommended to the SPS, so I urged the SPS to publish them, to reassure residents that the working title “HMP Bishopbriggs” was not going to become permanent. I also sent the 3000-name petition to Kenny MacAskill, asking him to put pressure on the SPS to publish the names.
- In May 2009, the SPS finally announced that they would keep ‘HMP Low Moss’ as the permanent name for the prison. Phew!