Plans for a bridge linking Mid and East Antrim and Scotland could be set to move a step closer after the borough’s Mayor invited Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for talks on the ambitious proposal’s feasibility.
Earlier this year, a leading architect claimed a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland would boost both economies and help address any post-Brexit border issues.
A Scottish Government spokesperson has said Transport Scotland officials will be speaking to counterparts in Northern Ireland to “explore the potential of improving the vital connections between our two islands”.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Paul Reid, has subsequently invited Scotland’s First Minister to the borough, which he described as the ideal location for such a bridge across the channel.
He said a bridge joining Portpatrick and Larne would provide substantial economic benefits to both Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The Mayor wrote: “As Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, I welcome your Government’s recent announcement to initiate discussions about the feasibility of building a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland.
“The town of Larne, to the north east of the borough and my own home town, is the ideal location for the Northern Ireland side of such a bridge.
“With excellent transport routes, visitors arriving via Larne can be in Belfast in as little as 30 minutes or arrive directly on the Antrim Coast to explore the beauty of our coastline and Game of Thrones country, attend one of our keynote festivals or relax in one of the many hotels, leisure and golf facilities in the borough.”
He continued: “Our borough has recently borne witness to the benefits of the A8 upgrade, with P&O Ferries handling its largest volume of freight in five years following its completion.
“Larne is increasingly seen as the gateway to Northern Ireland.
“Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has conveyed our support in relation to the upgrade of the A75 in Dumfries and Galloway.
“This upgrade is of strategic significance not just for Scotland, but also our borough, Northern Ireland and UK. The A75, as part of the Euroroute E18, is the arterial route between Scotland and Northern Ireland, and connects us with the rest of the UK and Europe.
“The A8 and A75 connected by a road transport route would have significant positive impacts for our economies, making both Northern Ireland and Scotland more accessible for tourism and commerce.”
The Mayor added: “The idea of connecting Larne with Scotland is not a new one. There are plans for tunnels dating back to the 1890s and it is often mooted among the communities I represent in recognition of our rich shared history. Even the mythical giant Finn McCool recognised the benefits of building a causeway so as to not get his feet wet on the way to Scotland.
“Elected Members and I would welcome further engagement with the Scottish Government and yourself in relation to the exciting opportunities the potential ‘Celtic Bridge’ would bring.”