Designs for the replacement for HMP Barlinnie will be available this summer, the Justice Secretary has said, as Parliament faces “profound” choices over the release of prisoners to ease overcrowding.

Angela Constance said she would work closely with victims’ organisations to ensure people are informed around any prisoner releases which take place.

It comes after she informed MSPs that she is seeking the emergency release of prisoners as some facilities have become “essentially full”.

The SNP minister said there had been a sharp rise of 400 prisoners incarcerated in Scotland since March 18 – with the total figure now sitting at 8,348.

One of the measures she suggested is the early release of some prisoners, with Scottish Parliament approval, under the Bail and Release from Custody (Scotland) Act.

Certain categories of prisoners will not be eligible for release under the law – including those sentenced to life, those who have not been tried or anyone convicted of a terror-related, sexual or domestic violence offence.

Glasgow Times:

Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme, Ms Constance said: “I understand that this is a profound decision and it’s a decision of great magnitude.

“And that’s why it will be made by Parliament as a whole, so that all the detail and arrangements can be forensically scrutinised.”

Ms Constance was asked if construction had begun on the new building which will replace HMP Barlinnie – the Victorian-era facility which is Scotland’s largest prison.

She said: “The final design will be available this summer and the contract for construction will be established and signed later on this year.”

She said the final delivery date for the new prison would be included in the construction contract.

Earlier this year, the Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland warned Barlinnie was at risk of “catastrophic failure” as she called for the prison estate to be updated.

The initial estimated delivery date for the new prison was November 2026 at a cost of £400 million, but last year concerns emerged that HMP Glasgow may open later than this.