14/02/2020

NI-Scotland Bridge Branded 'Vanity Project'

Scotland's Transport Minister has slammed UK Government proposals for a bridge linking Northern Ireland and Scotland as a "vanity project".

Michael Matheson united with the Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon to express concern after Downing Street confirmed a study is underway to assess the feasibility of the bridge between Portpatrick and Larne at an estimated cost of £20 billion.

Both Ministers wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps, with Ms Mallon saying she is surprised and disappointed such an announcement was made without consultation with the devolved governments.

Minister Matheson said he strongly believes the £20 billion available for infrastructure investment in Scotland and Northern Ireland would be better spent on local projects rather than "indulging the Prime Minister with this vanity project".

The SNP Minister requested immediate discussions with UK Government officials on releasing the funding.
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He said: "Given transport is devolved to both the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive, I look forward to hearing from you on the availability of the £20 billion to us, and to assurances that in future any such proposals will be discussed with us first and will fully respect the devolved settlements and the role of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Scottish Parliament."

Ms Mallon demanded clarity on what the proposals entail and an explanation as to why local Ministers were excluded from discussions.

"I am extremely concerned that pursuit of this project, costing £20 billion, will be a waste of significant money and resource that could be put to better use by addressing pressures and deliverable projects here in Northern Ireland and elsewhere," the north Belfast MLA wrote.

"I want to make it clear that a lack of investment by successive British Governments has, for a number of years, restricted the necessary investment in vital infrastructure and public transport here.

"Infrastructure investment should be focused on projects that will improve lives, boost connectivity and our economy, enhance our communities and work to address the climate crisis."

The proposed route would stretch 20 miles across the Irish Sea.



(JG/MH)

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