Majority of Scots prisoners cannot read, write or solve basic maths problems


A huge majority of Scots prisoners cannot read, write or solve basic maths problems, it has been revealed.

Figures revealed through the Freedom of Information (FOI) act show that only 15% of Scots inmates are functionally numerate, whilst only 30% are functionally literate.

The numbers were revealed after a survey of the country’s prisons between August 2014 and March 2015.

They also demonstrated that no improvements have been made in the number of literate and numerate prisoners since 2013.

The Scottish Conservatives have said the figures are “shaming” for the government, who have assured the public that they are addressing the issue.

The Tories went on to claim that improving such basic reading and writing skills would increase prisoners’ chances of reintegrating into society on release.

The stats show that an overwhelming number of prisoners lack basic skills
The stats show that an overwhelming number of prisoners lack basic skills


In its response to the FOI request the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) said that they considered those below level four of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) to be neither literate nor numerate.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: “The poor rates of numeracy and literacy in Scotland’s prisons are shaming for any government which claims it wants to break the cycle of reoffending.

“What chance of full rehabilitation is there if those who break the law are going back to the outside world with such obviously reduced chances of finding employment?

“This is why it’s crucial for prisons to offer rigorous work and education programmes to all inmates.

She also struck out at the government, saying: “The Scottish Government has been aware of this problem for some time, but clearly whatever it is doing is not working. We need to see an urgent improvement.”

But a government spokesman was quick to defend the numbers.

They said: “These statistics refer to screening of people entering custody, not to the skills of current prisoners or those who have been recently released.

“We know that literacy and numeracy skills are vital in enabling prisoners to access wider opportunities, including training and employment.

“The reconviction rate in Scotland is now at its lowest for 16 years, and recorded crime is at its lowest level in 40 years.

“This is a testament to the commitment of the prison service, police, courts, social work, third sector, and wider justice partners who are working hard to address offending and its underlying causes.

“We are not complacent and will continue to work hard to help individuals to develop their skills to support them in putting offending behind them and to embark on a more positive path in their lives.”