PRISON chiefs have hit back at an MSP's claims that social distancing is not being enforced at HMP Glenochil.

Elected rep for Mid Scotland and Fife, Mark Ruskell, recently raised questions about safety at the Wee County prison in the Scottish Parliament.

He raised the concerns after the Scottish Government's announcement that some short-term prisoners would be released early under measures designed to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Mr Ruskell said: "The Scottish Government has had a difficult task to balance the rights and needs of victims, prisoners, prison staff and families, but this decision to go ahead with limited early release is the right one, with some important exceptions for public safety.

"Apart from anything else, we simply don't have enough cells for inmates to self-isolate.

"I've been very concerned with reports I've received that social distancing in Glenochil prison simply isn't happening at present, with prisoners exercising in large groups, and that there is no testing of suspected patients.

"Having fewer inmates will certainly help with this situation, but we also need stronger guidance from the Scottish Government for managing the outbreak in our prisons."

However, the Scottish Prison Service addressed all the concerns raised by the MSP for the Scottish Green Party.

A spokesperson said: "People are out exercising in all of the prisons, but they are not out in large numbers.

"Numbers of people out at any one time have reduced considerably.

"We have been putting out consistent messages to prisoners and to staff, reminding them of the need to social distance.

"We are asking those in custody to treat their cell as their home, and outside their cell as their street."

The spokesperson added that the testing of suspected coronavirus patients was "an issue for the NHS".

They said: "Health care is provided in prisons by the NHS, the same way it is in the community."