Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland to Scotland bridge: Professor behind idea urges Nicola Sturgeon to 'set aside differences' and work with Boris Johnson

An artist’s impression of how the bridge could look
An artist’s impression of how the bridge could look

By Eimear McGovern

A leading architect who first called for a bridge to link Scotland and Northern Ireland has asked Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to work with the Prime Minister.

Professor Alan Dunlop, a fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, urged Ms Sturgeon to "set aside her political differences" with Boris Johnson to back a feasibility study into the project.

Professor Dunlop first proposed the idea of a bridge in early 2018. This week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he wouldn't dismiss the idea but insisted the UK had to foot the bill. He said "at the very least" a high-level engineering assessment could be carried out into if it was possible.

Mr Johnson and the DUP have previously spoken in favour of the project. Sinn Fein dismissed the idea as "fantasy politics".

Speaking to Scottish newspaper The National, Professor Dunlop said he was delighted to hear the Taoiseach's support for the idea.

"I would urge our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to put politics aside and do the same. A bridge to link Scotland and the UK to Ireland is a project fit for the 21st century," he said.

"There is also interest in the project internationally. I’ve spoken about it with colleagues in the USA and on visits to Australia and China this year.

"We have the engineering and architectural talent here in Scotland to create such a structure. Let’s look at it seriously."

Professor Dunlop has previously estimated the "Celtic bridge" would cost about £15billion.

Mr Varadkar revealed that in conversations with the Prime Minister, Mr Johnson said he expected the EU to pay for the bridge.

"So that's definitely not going to happen," he said, "because neither Northern Ireland or Scotland are going to be in the EU. But it was kind of half serious, half joking in a way.

"But all messing aside, I do think at the very least a high-level engineering assessment should be done as to whether it is a viable proposal."

At a conference at Aberdeen University in 2018 Professor Dunlop released the first artist impression of what the bridge might look like.

He has proposed two potential routes - one from Larne and Portpatrick (potentially costing around £20bn) or a crossing between the Mull of Kintyrne and Torr Head (potentially costing between £12bn and £15bn).

As well as rough seas, bad weather and deep waters, one of the major obstacles to the build would be Beaufort Dyke.

Large quantities of surplus munitions ranging from small arms to high explosives have been dumped in the area, which is more than 50km long and 3.5km wide. The precise locations and nature of the munitions were often poorly documented.

The Scottish Government has said it would "initiate discussions to explore improving connectivity" between the island of Ireland and Scotland, adding it was important "that all options are fully considered".

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