Why Scotland can and should build a bridge or a tunnel to Northern Ireland


(c) feel-planet.com

Mike Russell, the Scottish Brexit Minister has spoken out about a ‘fixed link’ between Scotland and Northern Ireland. I take it he means a bridge or a tunnel. I agree strongly. There are at least two good reasons to think we can build a bridge in this scale and at least two good reasons why we should.

First, the Scottish Government has already shown itself more than capable of managing the construction of a major bridge. The World Economic Forum identified Scotland’s new Queensferry Crossing project as a model example of good practice:

‘The UK’s new Queensferry Crossing bridge, connecting Edinburgh to Fife in Scotland, offers an example on how to do it. Three good practices contributed to the high-quality process and outcomes: the UK planners diagnosed the problem early; took their time with careful design upfront; and built and sustained an inclusive coalition of stakeholders. The evidence speaks for itself. The Queensferry Crossing – a three-tower cable-stayed bridge with a length of 1.7 miles – opened in early September, well within budget and with a manageable 8-month time delay. This is a rare occurrence among bridges. According to research at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, nine out of 10 fixed links (bridges and tunnels) suffer an average cost overrun of 34% and a time delay of roughly 2 years.’

See this for more detail:

‘American leaders should look across the pond for inspiration.’ World Economic Forum describes Scotland’s Queensferry Crossing project as a model of good practice for US developers

Second, although we’re talking of a 20 mile link this time, a tunnel or a mix of tunnel and bridge has already been shown to be feasible in other parts of the world. The Øresund / Öresund bridge/tunnel linking Denmark and Sweden is only 7.8 miles long but was built more than twenty years ago. Technological improvements since then have resulted in, for example, the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge in China which is the world’s longest sea bridge at 26.4 miles while the combined tunnels/bridges, the Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge (2011), is 102 miles long! Alan Dunlop, visiting professor of architecture at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen and Liverpool University, says a combined road and rail link between Portpatrick in Dumfries and Galloway and Larne in Northern Ireland would cost around £20 billion. HS2 is currently predicted to cost £56 billion.

Third, is Russell’s main argument that the link would help create a ‘Celtic arc’ of prosperity and cultural links. Another fixed link from Ireland to Wales would complete the arc and make possible a faster and greater flow of people, products and ideas than is possible with ferries. The Øresund / Öresund Bridge is estimated to have generated economic gains of 8.4 billion Euros on both sides of the strait. Social and cultural benefits cannot be so easily quantified but are thought to be immense. See (if you have Danish):

Hamberg, Thomas (31 August 2014). “Öresundsbron ger mångmiljardvinster” [Oresund Bridge provides multi-billion profits]. Dagens Nyheter. Stockholm

Fourth, is an emotional argument (my own) that the people of, especially, Northern Ireland, deserve to be linked more strongly and easily to the rest of the world. They, like the Bosnians, the Kurds or the Palestinians, for example, have suffered at the hands of the ‘great’ empires on their borders. They have been brutalised and, not surprisingly, they have become, at times, brutal themselves. Only acts of kindness can save them from the economic and cultural poverty they still suffer. Giving the people of Northern Ireland easy access to the world of their more fortunate cousins in Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland and beyond can, in time, turn things around.

Bridges are metaphors and the real thing too.


23 thoughts on “Why Scotland can and should build a bridge or a tunnel to Northern Ireland

  1. Alasdair Macdonald February 13, 2018 / 5:44 pm

    The main problem being cited is Beaufort’s Dyke, which is a deep and fairly wide trench. There are reportedly problems regarding the ‘tying’ of the bridge supports on either side. I suspect that in the unionist media these will be deemed ‘insuperable’, whereas, as you indicate, civil engineering has moved on very substantially since the Copenhagen/Malmo bridge. Another problem regarding Beaufort’s Dyke is that the armed forces have used it over many years to dump old ordnance and other rubbish. There might well be some of that which fell on the shallower banks of the Dyke. The third argument will be about THE NUCLEAR DETERRENT, since the submarines get into and out of the Firth of Clyde by such routes and might collide with pillars!

    The main argument against will be the long standing bias by the London/South East Financial cartel: only the London area can be considered for really big spending, such as Cross Rail and HS2, for example. These are deemed ‘important’ because the ‘benefits will ‘trickle down’ to the provinces. ‘Trickle down is an accurate phrase.

    Undoubtedly, connecting Northern Ireland to Scotland via road and rail would develop economic growth in the neighbouring areas, and, from a Scottish perspective would stimulate development and repopulation in Dumfries and Galloway and the south of Ayrshire. It would also provide good access to the populous areas of the North of England. And, this is another London/SE bogey, because much of the industrialised north has been impoverished so that the SE could gain. Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle were all vibrant commercial powerhouses and part of the cradle of the industrial revolution. The so-called and PR puffery of the Northern Powerhouse could become a reality rather than empty sloganising if this bridge and that from Wales were built. London and the SE would oppose this because it would develop other centres of power, as Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow were in the 18th, 19th and early 20th century.

    If places like Manchester were to recover their economic and political power than there would be demands for devolution of powers, within England. So, the problem of the governance of England would have to be addressed. It is likely that such developments would also lead to the resumption of more direct ferry services from east coast places like Aberdeen, Montrose, Dundee, Edinburgh to Europe and this would apply, too, to Newcastle, Teesside, Hull, Grimsby.

    You make a good point too, that bridges are mental constructs as well as concrete and steel ones.


    • Holebender February 14, 2018 / 9:45 am

      I would overcome the Beaufort’s Dyke problem by building three bridges/tunnels. From Irvine to Arran, then on to Campbelltown, then to Antrim.

      Of course, this’ll present a bigger target for nuclear submarine pilots.


      • johnrobertson834 February 14, 2018 / 12:00 pm

        Interesting idea. Would be good for Arran and the Mull too.


  2. William Henderson February 13, 2018 / 6:02 pm

    Another interesting project is the 19km Crimean Bridge across the Kerch Strait being built at the moment by the Russians.

    These big bridges are definitely ‘doable’ these days.


  3. Iain February 13, 2018 / 7:22 pm

    Minor point but the links are in Swedish not Danish


  4. Ludo Thierry February 13, 2018 / 8:53 pm

    Not entirely off topic as still dealing with development and infrastructure matters. The blog has carried several threads in past regarding potential for Vacant Land Tax. I note from the beeb Wales site that the Welsh Govt. are putting a Vacant Land Tax proposal to Westminster Govt. as part of their 4 Tax proposals (under the extended Welsh devo settlement they have to place it with Westminster initially). The Welsh govt. have looked at the Republic of Ireland experience. Interestingly it seems that in ROI it isn’t being viewed as a revenue raising vehicle but is viewed more as a mechanism to ‘prompt’ the developers to move more quickly. Clearly the Welsh example – if it does go ahead – will (together with the growing evidence from ROI) be useful info for Scottish Parlt and Govt. to consider – and decide whether this tax has potential for application in Scotland (I hope it might). Some edited details below:

    Landowners with empty plots they are not using will have to pay a vacant land tax under Welsh Government plans.
    It would apply to land where permission to build has been granted – or land that is within a local development plan – but where no work has been carried out.
    Critics accuse some businesses of “land banking” – hoarding land until it increases in value before building.
    Ministers say it will be an incentive for companies to build and stop empty sites from becoming derelict.
    They are unable to say how much the tax would raise, and officials say it is unlikely to make a big contribution to the budget. They cite the example of the Republic of Ireland, where the tax taken is enough to cover the cost of collection.

    The minister said it was not about raising money but changing behaviour, adding that the government would not introduce legislation if it would end up costing more money than it raised.
    However, Mr Drakeford said a recent sample survey of land set aside for development showed no progress had been made in 25% of cases and that the tax would never be intended to capture people who “are making every effort to carry out the development they have committed to doing”.

    (In ROI) The levy, which came into force in January, allows local authorities in Ireland to charge 3% of the market value of vacant sites not developed in 2018, with the rate rising to 7% in 2019.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Clydebuilt February 14, 2018 / 9:27 am

    I am strongly in favour of a fixed link with NI and Scotland, for all the positive reasons given in the article, however ( instead of a but) , for it to go ahead before independence our colonial masters at Westminster would have to back it. That’s the same people who don’t want to fund HS2 into Scotland.
    I have seen no evidence that Westminster wants to see a successful Scotland flourish.


  6. The Observer February 14, 2018 / 2:22 pm

    How about Constructing every pillar of the Bridge with tidal power generation systems at the same time…?


  7. bigirishman February 14, 2018 / 3:14 pm

    Sorry. I was brought up on the Ards Peninsula. the Deep is up to 300 m deep and 30 Km long by 3.5 KM wide. It simply isn’t a goer. The Mull of Kintyre one might be, except how do you get there. I lived outside Lochgilphead and there are another 60 miles from there to the Mull. (the ordinance is merely an additional problem 1M tons. the currents are so strong that no one has successfully dived on the Brincess Victoria even with a ROV
    If anyone wants to comment i suggest that they arm themselves with Admiralty charts 2198 Southern North Chanel, 2199 Northern North Channel, and 2131 Firth of Clyde and Loch Fyne. Seeing the depth and the surrounding topography might make people see this as a bloody silly idea. Remember that it was being pushed by an architect. I was involved in the Construction industry for some time before I discovered that stupidfunckingarchtect was not the one word. I case you don’t have the charts to hand, as well as the dyke you are dealing with 150 M in the south 100M in the North and 149 in the Loch Long. The water is deep and the hills are hight and I think you might have a lot of objections to building a motorway over the area, even if it were economically possible.


    • johnrobertson834 February 15, 2018 / 9:44 am

      Thanks Big, very helpful contribution suggesting Alasdair’s bridges to Arran then the Mull make even more sense.


      • Holebender February 15, 2018 / 10:28 am

        My name’s not Alasdair, it’s Neil.


      • Sam February 15, 2018 / 2:21 pm

        If my posting name was Holebender I wouldn’t be telling people my real name.


      • Holebender February 15, 2018 / 4:08 pm

        Why not? Is Neil such a unique name that it’d be enough to identify me? Anyway what’s your problem with my name? I’m proud of all the bent holes I drilled over the years and, if you use oil or gas in any form, you should be thanking me for making it accessible.


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