NIGEL Don MSP has already delivered on an election commitment to those who lobbied him on the future of Noranside open prison.
Barely a week after being sworn in as the new member for Angus North and Mearns, Nigel has written in the following terms to Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill MSP requesting that serious consideration be given to retaining Noranside as part of the Scottish Prison Service facilities:
“I understand that the Scottish Prison Service is continuing to review its facilities and that the open prison at Noranside is being recommended for closure.
“Whilst I think my constituents well appreciate the need to work within fixed budgets and the necessity for the Scottish Government to find savings within the criminal justice portfolio I ask that you give careful consideration to the wider effects which the closure of Noranside would bring.
“Firstly, the prison has a real economic value to the local community which provides a range of services to it.
“I understand that the intention is that prison officers would not be made redundant but would be redeployed elsewhere, but there will nonetheless be a real loss to this rural area where there are few alternative sources of employment.
“Secondly, I remain concerned that the essential nature of the open estate will be compromised by the closure of Noranside; it provides a vital rehabilitation service within the prison service which contributes to public safety when prisoners are released.
“The Independent Living Unit will be particularly difficult to emulate elsewhere.
“I would be grateful for your assurance that these issues will be carefully considered before any decision is made please.”
Mr Don commented: “I made a commitment to support the retention of Noranside during the campaign and I am pleased to be in a position to pursue this matter with the Scottish Justice department.
“I shall report further when I have received a response.”
Councillor Glennis Middleton added: “I am very pleased that Nigel has taken up the matter of Noranside so quickly.
“There seems to be no logic in closing a facility with a lower record of absconders than elsewhere and an excellent record on re-offending
“In fact it would make more sense to look at how the facility was run when the prisoners tended cattle and ran a garden centre selling their own produce, paving stones and garden furniture which brought in valuable resources to Noranside and consider reintroducing some of these elements.
“Prisoners could leave Noranside with a variety of job skills to help them find employment in their communities.”