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Devolved governments shoot down proposal to build NI-Scotland bridge

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Plans to build a bridge or tunnel linking Scotland with Northern Ireland are not a priority, Holyrood’s Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has said.

In February last year, it emerged that the UK government was considering building a £20bn bridge between the two countries, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson particularly keen as a way to cement the legacy of his time in office. 

But Matheson said the proposal was merely a “vanity project” for Johnson, adding that Scotland already had its own process for considering future transport infrastructure projects.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s 'Good Morning Scotland' programme, Matheson said: “It’s not a priority for Scotland, nor for Northern Ireland. I’ve just discussed the matter with Nichola Mallon, who is the minister for infrastructure in Northern Ireland last night, and she reiterated the point it is not a priority for Northern Ireland.

“It’s in my interest to have good transport connectivity with other parts of the UK. But it has to be taken forward in a planned, managed basis, recognising the distinctive nature of the decision-making process in Scotland, as it is in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, rather than it being dictated by ministers in London, who are very remote from our communities and don’t understand the nature of those communities.”

His comments follow broader plans announced by the government to improve transport links within the UK, particularly with regards to linking the four separate nations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland together.

Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy has been tasked with exploring ways to improve transport links in a new consultation. It will include options to change the air passenger duty (APD) treatment for domestic flights, such as reintroducing a return-leg exemption or the creation of a new lower domestic rate.

It also pledges to do this within the current goals to decarbonise domestic aviation as part of the UK’s ambition to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, including through mandating the use of sustainable aviation fuels.

Also being considered is the creation of a new UK strategic transport network that will allow people and commerce to move freely through all means of transport in the hope it could provide an economic boost.

Transport Minister Grant Shapps said: “This network of improved routes, which will now form the main focus of Sir Peter’s continuing investigations, would form the transport spine of the country, facilitating quicker and easier travel and trade between all corners of this country, levelling up communities and maximising national potential.”

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