The emergency early release of prisoners is being proposed by the Scottish government to ease overcrowding amid a spike in numbers, putting the prison estate at “critical risk”.

Justice Secretary Angela Constance said the move would only apply to those serving sentences shorter than four years and not anyone with a life sentence or convicted of sexual offences or domestic abuse.

Ms Constance told Holyrood on Thursday the country’s prison population has increased sharply by around 400 since 18 March, and 13% since the beginning of 2023.

Currently sitting at 8,348, Ms Constance said it is one of the highest levels ever recorded in Scotland.

She added: “There is now a critical risk to the continued safe and effective operation of the estate, with multiple prisons essentially full.

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