Plans for £15bn Scotland-Northern Ireland link 'scrapped under spending review'

By Craig Paton (PA) & Erin Santillo

Plans to build a tunnel or bridge to connect Scotland and Northern Ireland have been scrapped, according to reports.

The Financial Times reported this morning that the idea is one pledge that would not be fulfilled as the Treasury looks to stick to self-imposed spending limits in next month’s Budget.

A UK government official told the paper the link – proposed between Portpatrick and Larne – was “dead – at least for now”.

Boris Johnson had previously been supportive of the link.

His former chief advisor Dominic Cummings described it as "the world’s most stupid tunnel".

The plans were derided in Scotland, with Transport Secretary Michael Matheson saying it could cost as much as £33 billion.

Other estimates put the cost closer to £15 billion, which would still account for a major chunk of spending as the UK comes out of the other side of the pandemic.

The government appeared serious about the link, commissioning a union connectivity review which would, in part, assess its feasibility and cost.

But Nicola Sturgeon dismissed the idea, urging the chancellor to instead send the funding to the devolved administrations to help deal with domestic issues.

Ms Sturgeon said last March: “If you’ve got £20 billion available to build a bridge, I’m pretty sure me – and I’m sure equally the first minister of Northern Ireland – would be able to find things to spend that on right now that actually would be really useful to accelerate the progress to net-zero [emissions].”

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has previously said his preference would be for a tunnel as opposed to a bridge, telling journalists last year: “But I think the best solution if we’re going to bridge Scotland with Northern Ireland is a tunnel, and I’ve had conversations along those lines with the prime minister.”

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