The planned new £400 million replacement for Barlinnie is a long 
way from completion.

However, like its Victorian predecessor, it is already mired in controversy with concerns being expressed over the final cost and completion date.

The new jail will be called HMP Glasgow and will be situated on the former Provan Gas Works site, which lies between Blackhill and Provanmill in the city's East End, at the junction of the M8 and M80.

Anyone passing the 54 acre site in recent weeks has seen the site being prepared ahead of construction.

The decision to close the jail and build a new one was first taken in 2015 with the realisation it was no longer fit for purpose.

Already the future of the jail has become a political hot potato.

HMP Glasgow was initially set to open in 2025, but the deadline has been pushed back to 2027. 

Initial estimates for the replacement of Barlinnie nine years ago had been around £170m. 

In November Justice Secretary Angela Constance told Holyrood's criminal justice committee that replacing the new prison would likely cost £400m or more.

Read the full series: Barlinnie - the story of Scotland's super-prison

Concerns were then expressed over the delays with Glasgow MSP Pauline McNeill commenting: "I'm deeply concerned about what seems to be taking an eternity to build a prison – we’ve built loads of prisons before.

"I really cannot understand what you’re saying to the committee, is there something special about this prison?”

In response Scottish Prison Service (SPS) Chief Executive Teresa Medhurst said: “I understand what you’re saying about the concerns around Barlinnie.

"I would be delighted if we could deliver Glasgow in a much shorter timescale.”

Construction delays have been blamed on higher interest rates and supply-chain issues arising from Brexit

The new jail will face many tough challenges particularly on the issue of rehabilitation.

A 2017 SPS report found that more than a half of prisoners in Scotland's jails had been in care as children.

These numbers are greater in Barlinnie. 

The challenges presented on a daily basis to their prison officers have been intensified in recent years by the influx of narcotics of all types and strengths.

In particular psycho-active street drugs which makes prisoners behaviour more erratic and unpredictable and poses a daily threat to the safety of officers who deal with them.

Prisoners are increasingly finding new and more ingenious methods to get drugs into jail using anything from drones to faked legal documents.

One recent visitor to Barlinnie had attempted to smuggle drugs in a Kinder egg in his rectum. Barlinnie is also said to have issued more of the heroin substitute methadone, over the years, than any other prison in Europe.

Read more: Days of rage: Inside the Barlinnie prison siege of January 1987

The prison is home to around one-fifth of Scotland's entire inmate population of 7,700 and is typically running at about 50% over capacity.

At present little is known about what the new jail will look like once completed.

In one respect it will be very similar to its predecessor, housing prisoners serving sentences of four years or less.

People who have been convicted of more serious crimes particularly murder are more likely to be placed in specialist high security jails like Shotts in Lanarkshire, Glenochil in Stirlingshire and Addiewell, West Lothian, in the long term.

However many lifers will spend some of their sentence either on remand or waiting to be placed elsewhere in the prison estate.

One thing is certain HMP Glasgow will be the biggest prison ever built by the SPS and possibly the greenest.

It will also architecturally speaking be a far cry from the current grim grey Victorian edifice.

The Scottish Prison Service has already described the new Barlinnie as having more in common with a school or college campus than with a 19th century prison.

It is understood the buildings will also incorporate the latest smart technology, which will include a prisoner movement system to keep track of inmates.

HMP Glasgow will have 60 units of 22 people, with the aim of providing staff with much more time to work with individual prisoners.

The Herald: Construction has begun on new Glasgow prison to replace BarlinnieConstruction has begun on new Glasgow prison to replace Barlinnie (Image: Gordon Terris, Newsquest)

The SPS also see Barlinnie as a community asset providing facilities for local groups to have meetings and events within the jail itself.

Plans seen by The Herald show that the old style accommodation halls rebranded as houseblocks and prisoners referred to as residents.

Descriptions on the design statements lodged as part of the planning process make the new jail sound more like a religious retreat.

There is talk of woodland plantations, grassland, hedgerows, courtyards, community action spaces, areas for horticulture, walking routes and health and wellbeing gardens.

The five X shaped house block will have their own outdoor sports and exercise facilities including a gym .

There will be a community cafe for people visiting the prison and gardens where they can sit.

Play equipment has also been provided for children visiting their fathers in prison.

Planning documents provide details of five all weather MUGA playing fields including one with amphitheatre style seating.

One submission said:“The spare ground round the Central Facility Building is designed to promote a campus like environment which encourages positive behaviour and reflects normal life as closely as possible.”

Another part of the planning submission talks about the prison having an “open and welcoming appearance.”

One thing is certain the new Barlinnie will be a million miles away, metaphorically speaking, from its crumbling Victorian predecessor.

The new jail will also have the latest in security measures such as anti-climb walls.

The original inmates were tasked with crushing stone from a quarry used in the construction of four of the five halls.

However in this instance an outside contractor the Keir Group has been hired to do the building work.

HMP Glasgow is also expected become home to hundreds of endangered swifts - thanks to proposals to build nesting boxes into the prison walls.

The Herald: Artist's impression of the new HMP GlasgowArtist's impression of the new HMP Glasgow

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) have asked for 300 special bricks - with holes for the globally threatened swifts to live in - to be incorporated into the jail's five massive new halls or house blocks.

HMP Glasgow will also feature owl and bat boxes, fruit trees and landscaped gardens for both prisoners and prison officers.

The Scottish Prison Service also hope the new jail will be cost efficient.

Millions of pounds have been spent in recent years on refits and repairs because of the poor physical state of the building.

One person with high hopes for the new prison is veteran criminal lawyer Gary McAteer, senior partner in Beltrami & Co, situated next to Glasgow Sheriff Court.

He first visited Barlinnie around 40 years ago as a young fresh faced law student.

Mr McAteer said: "I was interested even then in doing criminal law and my class was invited to the prison to be shown round with our lecturer.

"My abiding memory of it was that I thought the visit was wrong.

"I was as if we were in a zoo and the reaction of the prisoners was 

"It felt as though it was a them and us.

"It was unfair on the prisoners, as if we we were ogling them.”

Read more: Glasgow's forgotten prisons and why Barlinnie was built

In 1984 Mr McAteer was hired as a trainee lawyer by veteran criminal lawyer Joe Beltrami and now runs the company Beltrami founded in 1958.

Mr McAteer says Mr Beltrami was the only thing he ever found more intimidating than Barlinnie.

The legal legend passed away in 2007 and was still involved in the running of the firm right up to his death.

One of Mr McAteer’s first jobs was being sent to Barlinnie to interview a client who was on remand and feeling he was in a scene straight out of 1970’s sitcom Porridge.

He added: "The conditions have gone up and down over the years.

"In the early days the visiting rooms for lawyers were quite off putting and primitive.

"The prison itself was like a Tinderbox .

"It was quite badly organised then.

"You often had to queue for hours to get in and even then you weren't guaranteed to see your client

"The prison was also quite overcrowded then and there wasn't enough staff.

"At one point Portacabins were used for visiting and that was grim and completely unsuitable.

"The facilities are much better now though they are far from ideal."

Mr McAteer says the use of virtual meetings such as Zoom to see Barlinnie clients remotely has made a big difference and something which was unimaginable in the past.

He believes that the focus of the new jail once it is completed must be on rehabilitation.

It's hoped the new prison could lead to a 20 percent reduction in re-offending due to increased services to help prisoners get their lives back on track.

Mr McAteer continued: "Treating people well in prison is essential to ensure there is a chance of rehabilitation in the future.

"The Scottish Government also need to find more creative ways of  dealing with offenders rather than sending them to jail."

Over the years Mr McAteer has represented hundreds of clients who have passed through Barlinnie gates, for a wide clients of offences ranging from shoplifting to murder.

He believes the introduction of female officers has made Barlinnie a better experience and diluted much of the macho environment that can lead to violence.

Mr McAteer added: "We are still not treating people well in prison.

"We need to treat the as human beings and look at alternatives to putting them behind bars.

"Barlinnie was of its' time but that time is now over.

"When you are in prison you are meeting the state at its most authoritarian.

"The most important thing for the new prison is to get the culture right as well as the design and look.”

Barlinnie Governor Michael Stoney has taken personal charge of construction of the new prison and is optimistic it will be delivered sooner rather than later.

He told the Herald: “We have consulted with partners and set out a bold vision for 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.”