NEW Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy has called for the proposed Greenock women’s prison to be used for men instead.

The Scottish Government is reviewing the £75 million Inverkip Road women’s project following opposition being expressed by various groups, and Mr Murphy, inset, also wants a rethink. But his comments have sparked scorn from Greenock-based SNP MSP Stuart McMillan.

The West of Scotland MSP said: “As Scottish Labour’s leader at Westminster, Jim Murphy once again finds himself at odds with his colleagues in Scotland.

“It is clear he has no clue what they are up to, or even bothered to ask what the local Labour MSP and the Labour council leader might think about his proposals.” But Mr McMillan’s comments were dismissed as ‘nonsense’ by Labour.

Greenock & Inverclyde MSP Duncan McNeil backed Mr Murphy’s views, adding that there had been wide consultation before the leader made his comments.

Mr McNeil said: “The original plan was to build a new men’s prison in Greenock, and that is now one of a number of options which could be pursued if the Scottish Government abandons the plan for a women’s facility.

“The other options could include a national or regional centre for women.

“Whatever happens, the site will be an integral part of the Scottish prison estate.” Inverclyde Council leader Stephen McCabe said he was aware of Mr Murphy’s views.

Mr McCabe said: “There is a growing national debate on prisons’ policy, and Jim is rightly responding to that.

“I have never been convinced that Greenock is the right location for a national women’s prison, but that was a decision for government.

“There is, however, a need to address the future of HMP Greenock and, if the Scottish Government does give way to public pressure – including from members of their own party — they should commit to building a replacement for Greenock prison on the site of the proposed women’s prison, as originally planned.” Inverclyde Labour MP Iain McKenzie told the Tele he shares Mr Murphy’s concern over the ‘alarmingly’ high number of women going to prison.

He said: “People who commit serious crimes need custodial sentences, but when women go to jail for a short time it can create more problems, such as breaking up families.

“I welcome the review into plans for the prison, but would ask the government to commit to continuing with the project as a male prison, as was originally proposed.”