SCOTLAND’S biggest prison project is facing yet more delays and price increases after the government quietly abandoned its previous costs and timings.

HMP Glasgow, the replacement for the city’s notorious Barlinnie jail, had been due to start construction in November this year and open in late 2026 at a cost of £400million.

However the dates and price have been deleted from the small print of a new spreadsheet recording the progress of the Scottish Government's major infrastructure schemes.

The final bill is now subject to work on an outline business case (OBC) while the delivery dates are “to be confirmed” and realigned to fit the “allocated budget profile”.

The Scottish Government, which is responsible for the funding, confirmed it was waiting for a “final design” before setting out new estimated costs and timescales.

Read more: They’re about to close Barlinnie down and throw away the key ... and a very different type of prison is set to replace it

Opposition parties said the project was “in disarray” and becoming a “farce”

The 130-year-old prison is the largest in Scotland, housing around almost a fifth of the country’s 7,700 inmates. 

It is usually 50 per cent over capacity, meaning over-crowding is endemic, with the poor physical state of the building requiring millions to be spent on refits and repairs each year.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland describes the five Victorian accommodation halls as “not fit for purpose” and in need of “significant investment”.

The latest replacement plan changes follow years of delays and price hikes on the project.

The Herald: Interior of Barlinnie Prison

The Government’s infrastructure plan of 2015 priced the 1200-place building at £170m with construction starting in 2018, but it took longer than expected to secure a site.

The Scottish Prison Service finally settled on a 54-acre plot at the former Provan Gas Works a few hundred metres from the existing Barlinnie.

In principle planning permission was granted in August 2020, but a follow-up masterplan was only submitted to Glasgow City Council in May this year.

Scottish Prison Service chief executive Teresa Medhurst told Holyrood's Criminal Justice Committee in November that the Government faced a “serious conversation” about the cost.

She said some construction sector inflation was running at 25 to 30 per cent, and ministers would need to find the mounting capital funding for HMP Glasgow. 

Read more: Bar-L Blues: How music is bringing hope to Barlinnie Prison

She identified a “potential gap” in capital funding in 2024/25 and 2025/26.

Later the same month, His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland Wendy Sinclair-Gieben told the same committee that HMP Glasgow was “likely to slip to 2027”.

In March this year, Ms Medhurst warned the SPS board there were “concerns about the future funding of HMP Glasgow”.

The following month, Mr Yousaf admitted that Barlinnie was “not in the condition that any of us would like”, but told MSPs the cost of HMP Glasgow had to be “interrogated”.

The £400m price tag and 2023 and 2026 start and finish dates have been part of the Scottish Government’s twice-yearly infrastructure updates since February 2021.

The Herald: Barlinnie prison, Glasgow.

But a spreadsheet published without any fanfare this week removed them all, replacing the £400m capital investment figure with “to be confirmed as part of OBC process”.

While the “construction start” and “operational/service start” dates, which had been 1 November 2023 and 1 November 2026, became “to be confirmed”.

A footnote stated: “The previously included delivery dates have been removed due to current discussions to amend the programme to align with the allocated budget profile.”

Tory MSP Russell Findlay said the justice system’s precarious reliance on Barlinnie meant HMP Glasgow was “critical to ensuring people in our communities are kept safe”.

He said:  “Ministers need to come clean about what appears to be yet another badly managed key infrastructure project. 

Read more: After 137 years of grime and punishment, Barlinnie is entering its final stretch

“For this data to be deleted apparently by stealth only serves to fuel concerns that the plans are in disarray and the costs are potentially out of control.”

Referring to Mr Yousaf’s time as Justice Secretary from 2018 to 201, he added: “It is no surprise that the fingerprints of our failing upwards First Minister are all over this.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur added: “This prison building project is turning into a farce. We had a projected cost and a timescale but now even those scant details have been snatched away to be replaced by a holding statement.

"By the time this prison is finally finished, most of those who would have originally served time there will have long been released.

"With prison budgets stretched, you would think the pressure to deliver capital projects on time and under budget would be huge.

Read more: Humza Yousaf to probe £300m extra costs in replacing Barlinnie

“Sadly, as with so much under the SNP, this looks like being yet another building project which ends up spiralling out of control. 

“That's bad news for prison staff, taxpayers and wider community safety."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to replacing HMP Barlinnie with HMP Glasgow which is being designed to deliver safe and secure accommodation. Estimated costs and timescales will be set out once a final design is available.”

Michael Stoney, Governor of HMP Barlinnie, who is leading on HMP Glasgow within the prison service, said: “We have consulted with partners and set out a bold vision for a new HMP Glasgow, which will provide the maximum possible benefit to those who live and work there, and our surrounding communities.

“Through a better quality of living environment, and strong relationships with staff, we are determined to help those in our care comprehend and understand how they can move forward and set themselves on the road to a better future.

“HMP Glasgow will be a strong and supportive partner, both locally and to the wider Scottish justice system, delivering a social value that benefits the wellbeing of our wider communities.”