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FoI request yields details of Scotland's discussions on cross-sea bridge

22 Jul 20 The Scottish government has provided information about its discussions of the UK government's consideration of a bridge or tunnel to Northern Ireland.

A 96-page document has been produced following a freedom of information (FoI) request made at the end of March.

The Scottish government said that it has had three separate meetings or discussions where a Scotland to Northern Ireland fixed link was mentioned between 1st August 2019 to 30th March 2020. In addition, three separate briefings have also been circulated.

 The first briefing, issued in September, took the line that Scotland is always keen to talk about strengthening connections between Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland but that it had no plans to take forward proposals for the bridge."We have not been approached by UK Government for our view on any such proposals," it said.

The idea was mentioned at a meeting in February between Department for Transport and Transport Scotland officals.  

A second briefing was issued in February following discussions between Scottish and Northern Irish ministers.

It summarised the issue: "In December it was reported that the Prime Minister had asked UK Treasury / Dept for Transport officials for advice on how a bridge between NI and Scotland could be paid for and the risks of such a project. This week, this was repeated with The PM stating officials were undertaking a piece of work on this. The story has seen further significant coverage in the UK mainstream media since that date, with the suggested cost of between £15-20 billion. Many people (reported as experts in the media) have spoken out about the impracticalities of this naming Beaufort’s Dyke (submarine trench containing tonnes of Second World War munitions), weather conditions and the vessels which currently use the on this stretch of sea. Transport Scotland have not undertaken an analysis of their own." 

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It went on to say: "In both Scotland and Northern Ireland, budget constraints from successive UK governments, have for a number of years restricted necessary investment in public transport and vital infrastructure and held back progress for our communities.

“Going forward we believe infrastructure investment should be focused on projects that will improve lives, boost our economy and connectivity, support communities and crucially work to end our contribution to climate change.

“If we had £15-20 billion to invest, we could invest in all 23 projects identified in the recently published South West Scotland Transport Study. By spending just a fraction of the cost of a bridge, approx. £6.5 billion, we could bring significant benefits to the people of Scotland and make a real difference to improving lives in the South West of Scotland. These projects have been identified through consideration of a robust analysis of evidence and engagement and collaboration with the people and businesses in the area." 

Similar points were reiterated in a further discussion and background briefing in February between the permanent secretary for Scotland and their Northern Irish counterpart.

 The FoI document also contains copies of emails and letters on the topic.

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