McArthur reveals 635 self-harm incidents in prisons in 2021


New Scottish Liberal Democrat research has today revealed that in 2021 there were more than 635 self-harm incidents in Scottish prisons.

In the second in a series of interventions highlighting how the Scottish Government has failed the justice system, party justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP expressed his concerns and urged the Government to put more mental health practitioners in Scotland’s prisons.

Figures obtained via Freedom of Information revealed that in 2021 alone there have been:  

  • 495 episodes of cutting, 144 in Addiewell Prison alone
  • At least 103 episodes of self-harm by ligature
  • At least 25 episodes of self-harm by swallowing items

The data obtained does not include suicide attempts, only episodes of self-harm where the intent is to try to find relief and release from emotional pain and distress. 

This is a 22% increase compared to 2017 figures.  The data suggests that the number of self-harm incidents has remained high throughout 2019 and 2020, with 658 cases for each year 

Mr McArthur said:

“These latest figures are deeply concerning, but hardly surprising in a prison estate that is bursting at the seams.

“The problem of self-harm in Scotland's prisons has been getting steadily worse over the years, but SNP Ministers have been slow to act.

“While Ministers talk a good game about delivering a more progressive agenda on justice, the reality on the ground is very different. Scotland locks up more of its population than anywhere else in Europe, remand levels are through the roof and rates of self-harm continue to rise.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats believe the government can start turning this situation around by basing more mental health professionals in our prisons. We secured a commitment from Ministers to deliver this important measure, but so far recruitment has been glacially slow."


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