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Prisoners handed £15m of taxpayers’ cash

The Scottish Prison Service has handed over £15 million in taxpayers’ cash directly to prisoners in the last five years, the Scottish Conservatives can reveal.

Information obtained via a Freedom of Information Request underlines the huge sums being given to inmates – payments which can be handed out even when a prisoner is not working.

And this £15 million does not include the money the Scottish Prison Service have spent on other prisoner handouts, such as TVs and mobile phones.  

The Scottish Conservatives’ Justice Spokesman Jamie Greene said the scale of these ‘handouts’ – from the so-called Prisoner Wage Policy – would raise alarm bells among taxpayers, particularly when their household budgets are being squeezed by the global cost-of-living crisis.  

Scottish Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Justice Jamie Greene MSP, said: “It is an astonishing revelation that taxpayers are shelling out more than £15 million in prisoner handouts.

“It’s absurd that payments awarded via a ‘Prisoner Wage Policy’ can be given out even when a prisoner refuses to work.

“This will shock the public who would expect to see far greater scrutiny placed on how their money is spent on prisoners, particularly at a time when their domestic budgets are being hit by the global cost-of-living crisis.

“This amount does not even include the huge amount of money dished out on prisoner mobile phones and in-cell TVs, which add to the ever-growing list of luxuries that prisoners are indulged with.

“The SNP Government are set to cut the Scottish Prison Service’s budget over the next few years so the public will rightly question whether spending such a large amount on these freebies is a good use of taxpayer money.

“The public must have confidence that our prisons are a place of punishment as well as rehabilitation. This extravagant spending suggests that the current system is failing to do either.”


The Scottish Prison Service spent £15 million on direct payments to prisoners in the last five years. The Scottish Prison Service confirmed it had spent £15,084,712.85 giving money directly to prisoners in the financial years of 2017-18 through to 2021-22. (SPS FOI, 10 August 2022).

The Scottish Prison Service confirmed this payment can be made even if the prisoner is not working. Their Prisoner Wage Policy confirms that unemployed prisoners can get £5 a week. (SPS FOI, 10 August 2022).

This amount does not include the money the Scottish Prison Service spent on TVs or mobile phones for prisoners. The Scottish Prison Service’s annual procurement report shows that they are set to spend £500,000 from September 2022 on the ‘provision and maintenance of in-cell TVs’. In addition, the Scottish Prison Service originally estimated a price tag of £2.7 million for mobile phones but spending watchdog Audit Scotland has found this has soared to £3.2 million. This paid for around 7,600 handsets that were being issued to prisoners because of visiting restrictions. (Scottish Express, 28 January 2022, link; SPS Procurement Report 2021-22, 2 August 2022, link; Scottish Express, 6 August 2021, link).