Jail's 'halfway houses' razed as site is rebuilt; Big Mags was one of occupants.
Byline: JOHN ROWBOTHAM
A row of six houses alongside Cornton Vale Prison have been demolished as re-development continues on the site there.
The homes were used as staff accommodation following the opening of Scotland's only allwomen's prison in 1975.
But in the 1990s, when the prison service stopped offering homes to their staff, the properties were used as 'independent living' quarters for prisoners about to be released from their sentence. The homes were situated outside the prison's secure fencing.
Stirling crime clan matriarch Big Mags Haney was moved into one of the 'halfway houses' in 2008, midway through a 12-year sentence for being concerned in the supply of heroin. She was freed a year later.
Stirling Council last year gave planning permission to the Scottish prison service for the reshaping of the 9.5-hectare site off Cornton Road.
Most of the existing buildings on the site are to be knocked down to make way for construction of a new and smaller national facility for up to 80 of the country's most prolific female offenders. An assessment centre with space for a further 25 women is also planned.
It is expected that the 5.2-metre perimeter fence will be moved back into the site. All the new facilities will be within the fencedoff area.
The new complex will be smaller than the existing prison which six years ago had no fewer than 450 inmates.
Demolition is to be carried out in phases so a fully-functioning establishment can remain in use through the construction period.
Apart from the existing entrance premises plus Ross House and the Peebles and Skye blocks, all the buildings on the site are to be knocked down and that has included what appears to be the perfectly good houses.
Asked why they had to go, a spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service said: "Unfortunately, the way the site is being developed, we cannot build around them.
"Where the houses were situated will provide access into the site and that area will be used as the parking area both for staff and visitors. Had they not been so close to the facility, we would have sold them off but their gardens were right up against the fence."
He said independent living provision would be provided at other prison facilities in Scotland.
SPS is also planning new community-based custody units across the country aimed at allowing women to be closer to their families and support services.
It follows the decision in 2015 not to proceed with the planned construction of a large women's prison in Inverclyde.
Around 110 prisoners were transferred from Cornton Vale in Stirling to HMP Polmont, near Falkirk, in August, 2017, and by May last year the number at Cornton Vale had fallen to just 68.
The new units are scheduled to open at the end of next year although construction on the site is not due to finish until 2022.
Unfortunately, the way the site is being developed, we cannot build around them
Knocked down Homes used as staff accommodation and later by prisoners on cusp of release
Construction Bulldozers have moved in at Cornton Vale