One of Scotland’s leading architects has claimed that a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland is not only “feasible” but could create a “Celtic powerhouse” and cost a fraction of the one proposed by Boris Johnson between England and France.
Professor Alan Dunlop, who is a Fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) and a visiting professor at the school of architecture at the University of Liverpool, said a combined road and rail crossing could be erected between Portpatrick, in Dumfries and Galloway, and Larne in Northern Ireland.
He said the new structure would boost the Scottish and Irish economies and help solve any longer term disputes over the re-emergence of an Irish border post-Brexit.
He told BBC Radio Scotland’s John Beattie Show: “It would be a wonderful thing – a connection between Scotland and Ireland. We share a lot of history together, similar ideals.
“The business potential is exceptional, the chance of actually really making an investment in what would be the true north.
“Westminster politicians talk about the northern powerhouse, but they’re really only talking about Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield.
“This would be an investment in what would be, I think, the true North.”
The announcement comes a week after foreign secretary Boris Johnson proposed a bridge across the English Channel, which Professor Dunlop has estimated to cost £120 billion. A potential ‘Celtic bridge’ would be a better prospect and would cost about £15bn, he added.
Mr Dunlop said: “The challenges of it are much less than Boris’ idea of building across the English Channel.
“We don’t have the weather problems and it is a not as significant or as large a shipping lane.
“The possibilities of it are great.
“It would send out a dramatic marker in aspiration for the country going into the 21st Century.”
Mr Dunlop said a suspension rail and road bridge like that which connects Denmark and Sweden across the Oresund Strait could be built from Portpatrick to Larne, although he warned that Beaufort’s Dyke, a 300- metre deep sea trench off this stretch of the Scottish coast, would be a challenge for engineers.
The architect said that technically it would be easier to build a bridge between the Mull of Kintyre and Torr Head on the Antrim Coast. They are just over 12 miles apart and the sea is shallower, However, he warned it might not attract a sufficient number of vehicles because of the four-hour drive to Mull of Kintyre from the central belt.
Mr Dunlop said: “There are two ways it could go. It could go from Portpatrick to Bangor or Larne, but there are significant environmental and geological challenges there.
“We do have incredibly talented architects and engineers in Scotland so I am sure that as a technical challenge it wouldn’t be insurmountable.
“The shorter route would be from around Campbeltown, the Mull of Kintyre across to the Antrim coast.
“But getting to Campbeltown from the central belt is very difficult.”
Foreign secretary Boris Johnson had suggested the channel bridge as it was announced Britain and France were investigating joint infrastructure projects, though Downing Street has said there are “no specific plans” for a bridge between the UK and France.