A campaign has been launched by the Edinburgh Women for Independence group, who are unhappy at plans for the facility because they claim it is not the right way to deal with women offenders.

The petition is calling on new Scottish cabinet secretary for justice, Michael Matheson MSP, to block work at the recently-cleared Inverkip Road site.

They say that building the new prison goes against the government’s own advice on women offenders and is not supported by charities which work with female prisoners.

The Tele can today reveal that the Scottish Government is to review the plans before the contract for the new build is put out to tender some time this month.

HMP Inverclyde is earmarked to replace Cornton Vale in Stirling, with construction expected to start on 1 September this year and an opening date set for June 2017.

But campaigners hope to force a rethink before construction gets under way.

In a letter to Mr Matheson, the group said: “The Scottish Government claims it is following recommendations by building a large prison, which will house up to 350 women, in a more inaccessible location in Inverclyde.

“The plan is wrong and will waste resources that are needed for treatment, rehabilitation, and family support.

“We call on the Scottish Government to cancel plans for the proposed large prison for women in Inverclyde.

“This plan is against the recommendations of the Commission on Women Offenders, chaired by Eilish Angiolini, and is being pursued against all expert evidence and opinion.” The protesters oppose imprisonment of female offenders and say there is evidence to back up their position, highlighting comments from one academic who described the new jail as ‘a tragedy which will be with us for decades to come’.

The campaigners say that many women in prison are minor offenders serving short term sentences who have been the victims of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, with high rates of self-harm and drug and alcohol problems.

They said: “Most of these very vulnerable women should not be in prison at all, but rather in rehabilitation supported accommodation or other rehabilitative community services.” The Scottish Government today confirmed the justice secretary is looking into the final plans for HMP Inverclyde and said that discussions are ongoing.

A spokesperson said: “In line with the recommendations of the commission, we are working closely with local partners to deliver robust community sentences and services that are appropriate for women who offend and to ensure that for those women who are sent to prison, the environment and facilities are suited to their needs.

“The cabinet secretary for justice is considering the final configuration of the new prison estate, as he recently indicated to the justice committee, and this consideration remains ongoing.” A spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service said it would be inappropriate to comment while the issue is being considered by Mr Matheson.