About the Scottish Prison Service



The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) is an Executive Agency of the Scottish Government and was first established in April 1993. Our Framework Document sets out the policy and resources framework set by Scottish Ministers within which the SPS operates. As an Executive Agency, the SPS is funded by the Scottish Government.

The SPS is responsible for those who are committed to its care by the Courts and is accountable to the Scottish Parliament for the delivery of custodial care in accord with The Prisons and Young Offenders Institutions (Scotland) Rules 2011.




Our principal objective is to contribute to making Scotland Safer and Stronger. The SPS has a duty to protect the public by keeping those who have been sentenced in safe and secure custody. Our commitment to public safety is delivered through constructive engagement with those in our care, focussing on recovery and reintegration.

As of June 2023, 15 prisons were directly operated by the SPS and a further two were run by private sector operators under contract to the SPS.

We directly employ around 4,500 staff and on a daily basis accommodate over 7500 individuals in our care.

We also manage the contract for the Scottish Court Custody and Prisoner Escorting Service (SCCPES), on behalf of multi-agency justice partners, for the provision of safe and secure transport of those in custody to and from courts.



National Performance Framework and Outcomes

As an Executive Agency of the Scottish Government we are committed to contributing to the delivery of Scotland’s National Performance Framework. The Framework was launched in June 2018 and comprises 11 National Outcomes and 81 National Indicators. SPS contributes both directly and indirectly to all of the National Outcomes but especially;

• we live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe; and

• we respect, protect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination.

Justice in Scotland; Vision and Priorities

The national justice strategy for Scotland; Justice in Scotland; Vision and Priorities (Scottish Government, 2017) envisages a proportionate and person-centred approach to justice, focusing on prevention and protection which delivers better outcomes for individuals and communities. Prisons should be utilised to accommodate only those who have committed the most serious offences to ensure that society is protected from those who pose a serious risk and only “…where necessary to address offending or to protect public safety, focusing on recovery and reintegration.”

The national justice strategy asserts the role of prisons in seeking to achieve a reduction in reoffending and in supporting those in custody in their safe reintegration back into their communities.



In contributing to the delivery of our principal objectives and national outcomes, SPS has four strategic themes and outcomes, each of which is supported by Key Success Indicators.

Strategic Themes and Outcomes August 2019



During 2020-21, SPS took forward amendments to The Prisons and Young Offenders Institutions (Scotland) Rules 2011. The Amendments are designed to support our response to the exceptional pressures facing prisons during the current Coronavirus outbreak. The amendments generally provide Governors with flexibility in regards to compliance with timescales and the provision of those services, which although important, are not critical to the security and health of SPS and NHS staff and those in SPS’ care. The Amendments to the Rules also provided for the introduction of virtual visits, authorised personal communication devices and in-cell telephony, which have enabled those in our care to maintain contact with family and friends during times when actual physical visits to an establishment are more challenging or not possible, due to the impact of Coronavirus.

Other pieces of legislation that have impacted on our services include The Representation of the People (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2020 which extended the eligibility criteria for those in custody to include persons detained in a prison in pursuance of a sentence not exceeding 12 months. At a UK level, The Terrorist Offenders (Restriction on Early Release) Act 2020 made a number of changes to the law in Scotland in regards to early release of those convicted of terrorism offences. The Act created a separate early release regime for those convicted of a terrorism, or terrorism-related, offence.