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A social business has revealed plans to open a vegan restaurant staffed by prisoners and ex-cons in Scotland, according to reports.

Starting Step has submitted its plans to overhaul Perth Prison’s old social club into a cafe called The Yew Tree to the local council. There are further plans to offer a fine dining restaurant style experience in the evenings.

The organization wants to support inmates and people with convictions by giving them training by working at the restaurant – which would be open to the public.

‘Develop their skills’

“Trainees will be able to develop their skills and reap the benefits of a real work environment,” Starting Step said in a statement tabled with council planners.

“They will be able to interact with members of the public, where there will be no attached stigmas of their past mistakes. This will bring an added positive outcome of breaking down barriers between community and clients.”

The organization wants to support inmates and people with convictions via the project (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

‘They probably thought I was bonkers’

Chief executive Dodie Piddock said: “I’ve worked with charities and the third sector for some time and I had always wondered why Scotland has such an appalling number of people in prison. We’re one of the worst in Europe, per capita.

“I did a lot of work on focus groups and I found that the vast majority of people in prison need a second chance. I came away from this thinking, how do we do this?”

Piddock says the prison service ‘probably thought [she] was bonkers’ after she spoke to them about the plans, adding: “That’s the usual response I get.”

‘It will be beautiful’

Speaking about why Starting Step plans to offer a vegan menu, Piddock said there are many reasons – including the ‘growing need for chefs that are able to produce high-quality vegan food’.

She added: “What is important about this project is the end result. I don’t want this to be just another training program, I want to do something more than give them hope.

“I knew there were two areas where we could just about guarantee them jobs – horticulture and hospitality…It will be beautiful. And hopefully it will be something Perth can be proud of. Ultimately, I really want to eradicate the stigma of people who have touched base with the criminal justice system.

“People will come because they might be nosy, and we have to keep them coming back because of the food.”