THERE are still no plans for a replacement HMP Greenock - despite warnings that the current Gateside jail is falling apart.

Scotland's top prisons inspector, David Strang, revealed in his recent report into conditions at the 108-year-old building that 17 cells have been condemned due to serious water ingress and dampness.

He says many more could be closed unless there is 'significant investment' or a new facility built 'within a short period' of time.

The Scottish Government says a replacement jail is a top priority - but refused to comment on when it will be built and how it will be paid for.

The former Greenock High site off Inverkip Road remains the preferred location for a replacement facility.

Millions of pounds of public money were spent by the government acquiring the land and clearing it.

Mr Strang, chief inspector of prisons in Scotland, said: "There are all sorts of arguments why it would be good to replace a really old prison like that with a modern, purpose-built but I understand the economics of it and political reality so I don't know when.

"I have asked the government but they haven't given a date when it would be renewed.

"I know it's on their list and they have that site, the former school site where they were going to build the women's prison but changed their plans."

Construction of the current Gateside jail started in 1907 and welcomed its first inmates three years later.

In his report, Mr Strang was very critical of the condition of the building and says it does not meet modern day standards.

A government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government and Scottish Prison Service are committed to modernising and improving the prison estate which includes Greenock Prison.

"The Scottish Government have a capital investment programme which is proceeding in a number of phases and have already invested hundreds of millions of pounds in the prison estate to ensure that it is fit for purpose."

Despite the condition of the Gateside building, Mr Strang praised staff for the 'very good' work going on inside.

A Scottish Prison Service spokesman said today: "The SPS still has the old Greenock High School site that was originally earmarked for a new HMP Greenock, however, like all government departments it has to compete for funding to take forward its plans.

"The 17 cells at Gateside are out of commission due to dampness and the estates team is currently looking at ways of addressing that and bringing the cells back into use."