Rallying against plans to close Noranside prison

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Local political figures and members of the public are lending their support to a campaign to keep Noranside prison open.

The Prison Officers’ Association Scotland held a rally at Forfar’s Cross on Saturday to canvas support to allow locals to sign a petition against the facility’s closure.

MP for Angus Mike Weir and MSP for North East Scotland Nigel Don both lent their support for the campaign, as did Councillor Iain Gaul.

“The response from people of Forfar at rally against The Scottish Prison Service management decision of closure was really humbling,” said Mr Gaul.

“I did not hear any dissenting voices at all which shows there is huge support in this area for the retention of Noranside.

“It’s unfortunate that some of the other people who were there have tried to make it political by suggesting it is an SNP decision when it’s a Scottish Prison Service decision.

“The Scottish Prison Service is a quango and has made a short-term, poorly thought-out decision and if carried out will have an impact on Castle Huntly as well.

“It is not practical to have just one open prison because of the dynamics of the prison population and I sincerely hope that Scottish Prisons Service management take notice of the people of Angus and revisit this.”

Angus Councillor Colin Brown has hit out against the Scottish Prison Service for “wasting tax-payers’ money” on refurbishment work at Noranside and their lack of forward planning.

The Independent councillor for Forfar was unable to attend Saturday’s rally at the Cross due to SFA commitments, but he told the “Dispatch and Herald” he was “one hundred per cent supporting the retention of Noranside.”

He said: “At risk here are people’s jobs, their families, their way of life and the local economy. All these people spend within the county of Angus.

“There has been considerable investment in the buildings at Noranside and they are now about to carry out remedial work at Castle Huntly. This is a waste of tax-payers’ money.

“There has been a lack of forward planning by the Scottish Prison Service. I am also disappointed that this surfaced before any elected member knew anything about it.”

The Scottish Prison Service announced its intention to close the open prison on December 15 last year. The decision has been challenged by the Prison Officers’ Association, with the case for retention receiving national backing.

The association is now running a national petition and putting forward a business case for the retention of Noranside.

They also plan to lobby parliament this week and will hand the petition to both the Scottish Prison Service and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, the following week.