Could a bridge between Ireland and Scotland result in a “Celtic powerhouse?”
A leading UK architect has said that a bridge joining Northern Ireland and Scotland could result in the creation of a “Celtic powerhouse,” especially in the wake of border concerns around Brexit. Professor Alan Dunlop, a Fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, was speaking after a suggestion made by UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson that a bridge should be built over the English Channel to connect England and France.
"It would be a wonderful thing - a connection between Scotland and Ireland,” Dunlop, a professor from the school of architecture at Liverpool University, told BBC Radio Scotland John Beattie Show.
"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," he continued.
"This would be an investment in what would be, I think, the true North."
Dunlop believes that this Ireland-Scotland “Celtic” bridge would cost just $21 billion (£15 billion), a fraction of the English Channel bridge estimated price of $168 billion (£120 billion).
The suggestion of some form of bridge or tunnel between Ireland and Scotland is far from a new one. Although supporters of such an endeavor claim that a tunnel- or bridge-build would be beneficial for tourists on both sides of the water, those against such a proposal believe that the enormous initial spending involved would make the project not at all cost-efficient.
Ireland and Scotland are already easily linked by ferry and of course, by plane. It’s believed that a tunnel could not live up to the success of the Channel Tunnel between Southern England and France, which continues to increase the number of passengers it transports each year, reaching 21 million in 2014.
Some believe a bridge to be a more viable option, however, and two routes have been suggested that would link Scotland to Northern Ireland.
In 2007, a report by the Center for Cross Border Studies estimated that a bridge from Galloway in Scotland to Ulster would cost up to £3.5 billion ($5.1 billion), a hefty sum when there still remains some uncertainty over whether it would be heavily used.
In Northern Ireland, a 12-mile passage could be established between Antrim and the Mull of Kintyre, or a 21-mile passage between Portpatrick and Belfast Lough. Although on face value it may seem easier to pick the 12-mile option, the Mull of Kintyre route would involve further travel over water and heavy upgrading on transport systems through mountainous terrain on either side. As such, it would be the more expensive option.
Routes between the two countries via the North Channel also face the problem of Beaufort’s Dyke, a 31-mile long, 650-feet deep sea trench that was used as a dumping ground for conventional and chemical munitions in the aftermath of the Second World War. The Dyke has been a constant set-back for those suggesting a Ireland-Scotland passage since the the idea first began floating around in the 19th century.
"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,” said Dunlop.
"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."
The architect also believes it could be a good call for Brexit stating: "It would be something we could debate around Brexit.
"Engineering-wise and architecturally this could be an investment in the infrastructure of Scotland and Ireland."
Economists are not as certain about the massive investment being worthwhile, however.
"Big infrastructure projects can be transformative," said economist George Kervan.
"But the trouble with this one is just the costs will kill it.
"A bridge from Portpatrick would be about 21 miles - that is not really effective road transport.
"You'd probably need a tunnel if you want the connection but the geology doesn't really work there.
"And £15bn - I can think of a lot of other things to do with that.”
Would you like to see a bridge between Ireland and Scotland? Could you see many tourists making use of it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.