The Bridge, again

Trump does walls, Boris does bridges. That’s his thing.

But if his London garden bridge was a complete disaster (it gobbled up £60m of public cash) we should be rolling our eyes at his DUP-sop of the fabled Scotland-Ireland bridge proposal and wondering what he is distracting us from or what community he is trying to placate?

That might not take too long to figure out.

Just a wee reminder: the Øresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden took 5 years to build and cost €4 billion. It’s around 7.5 km long. Johnson’s proposed Scotland to Ireland would be 35 miles long. With impending Brexit economic collapse this is never (ever) going to happen.

As Dawn Foster writes in Jacobin:

“Vanity projects are key to Johnson’s political mission, mirroring his own personal vanity: all he wants is for a physical memento to outlive him and secure his historical legacy. The bridge Johnson sold the DUP was also one they had been chasing for years: it has featured in several DUP manifestos, with the route purporting to run between Larne and the Mull of Kintyre. Northern Ireland is in dire need of travel infrastructure, but not a bridge to Scotland: trains, roads, and buses handily miss the Nationalist areas of Northern Ireland, but the areas the DUP do well in are well served by transport. If the DUP can grab a few headlines by making it look as though they might swipe some extra cash for this unfeasible bridge, they’ll happily do so. How the hypothetical bridge would solve the customs issue remains a mystery; checks between the European Union and a United Kingdom that is not in the EU will be needed, otherwise people and goods can enter tariff-free or without visas or passport checks. That was the whole point of the “take back control” narrative, and the strongest reason many people voted to leave the EU. If people or goods now enter the UK over a bridge from Larne rather than a road in South Armagh, nothing has changed to warrant different treatment.”

Reality: polls are showing a massive generational pull towards a United Ireland.

Boris Johnson has said that the bridge project would cost £15 billion.

Yes you read that right: £15 billion.

The Magic Money Tree is back with a vengeance.

Of course its a fiction, a fantasy and dangerous distraction.

Apart from it being economically and technically ridiculous, there are other far more serious problems.

The funny thing about Johnson’s wheeze is that rather than connect the Union in some tangible way, it would be more likely to uncover the toxic legacy of the British State: Beaufort’s Dyke, the seven-mile munitions dump used by the Ministry of Defence since the 1920s.

The MOD has estimated there are 1.5 million tonnes of munitions dumped in the trench:

“Because of its depth and its proximity to the Cairnryan military port, it became the United Kingdom‘s largest offshore dump site for conventional and chemical munitions after the Second World War; in July 1945, 14,500 tons of 5-inch artillery rockets filled with phosgene were dumped in Beaufort’s Dyke. The Ministry of Defence estimates that there are well over a million tons of munitions at the bottom of Beaufort’s Dyke. Munitions have subsequently been washed up on beaches in the area. In particular, in 1995, incendiary devices were discovered on the Scottish and Northern Irish coasts. This coincided with the laying of the Scotland-Northern Ireland pipeline (SNIP), a 24-inch gas interconnector constructed by British Gas.

For the same reason that Beaufort’s Dyke was created (we don’t matter to the British state) – the Bridge won’t be built either (we don’t matter to the British state).

Comments (30)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Malcolm Kerr says:

    Surely the jury is still out on whether the bridge is technologically feasible. It is definitely economically feasible though: £15bn is a very matter of fact sum in comparison to capital expenditure delivered routinely in the overheated south east of England. Why bring it up now? Presumably a distraction of some kind. But does Johnson think we are paying so little attention that we really wouldn’t notice the project doesn’t address the “backstop” issue in any way at all. There needs to be a hard border across Ireland or in the Irish Sea – unless, of course, Ireland is united and Scotland independent.

    1. I’m not convinced its technically feasible at all, aside from the Beauforts Dyke issue the water is 1000 ft deep at the shortest crossing.

      We need to examine these absurdities for that they are

      1. Tux cat says:

        I am convinced it is technically feasable, but then I am a structural engineer so I have a bit of knowledge on it.

        However, each pier would cost more than the queensferry crossing and 54 are required. It would take the worlds entire offshore fixed platform and bridge building industries to do and it would cost in order of 55 to 75 billion (plus inflation) over a period of construction not less than 15 years, probably closer to 20. It would actually need to be a tunnel to protect from the wind. There is suggestion that it could be done on pontoons but I do not think that would be feasable since the spans would be too massive. Each pontoon would need to be the size of a liner.

        1. I think we’re discussing the how of something without discussing the why?

          I also think that this is what Boris wants people to do

          1. Tux cat says:

            the “why” is to show a new dynamic global “can-do” Britain internationally and connecting its two precarious outposts.

            its to form a “shock and awe” political gesture of Britannia is best to a world stage.

            it creates a market for steel from Port Talbot for 20 years and makes use of the vast industry of offshore engineering resources in the UK.

            And it would create the greatest white elephant in world history and a special edition of “abandoned engineering.

    2. William Davison says:

      Naturally this has had a lot of coverage over here in N.Ireland and been widely debated. The chief advocate for the bridge would appear to be Prof Alan Dunlop of Glasgow, whom I’m heard interviewed on numerous occasions, he seems to think it would be feasible and would cost between £15-20 billion. The chief fear of contributors to this site would appear to be that they’ll be swamped by “Orange Order unionists.” As O.O. membership amounts to 34,000 out of a total Ulster Protestant population of almost a million, swamping might be a bit of an exaggeration. In any case anybody wishing to travel from N.I. to Scotland can already do so easily, it’s only two hours by ferry or half an hour by plane to either Glasgow or Edinburgh, so a bridge won’t make much difference. For millennia there’s been reciprocal movement between particularly south-west Scotland and the north of Ireland, Scotland derived its name from such movement in the 5th century, Presbyterianism is the largest Protestant denomination in N.I. as a result of 17th century migration. A bridge would merely enhance religious, cultural, industrial, linguistic (both Gaelic and Scots) links which are already there. I personally think anything that improves connections between people is a good thing, it would not only make movement between N.I. and Scotland easier, it would make movement between the whole island of Ireland and on to Scotland and Britain more convenient and vice versa, with probable benefits in commerce, tourism, education, etc. But, of course, it’ll never happen, as its just been thrown out, in off the cuff manner by Boris, because he thinks the D.U.P. might like it, though with Boris’s past record they aren’t going to be fooled. All the talk over here is that we are in the final throes of reaching an agreement, which the DU.P. can sell, which won’t be called a backstop, but will be something very similar : all-Ireland alignment with E.U. rules, particularly on agriculture, regulatory checks on certain goods coming into N.I. from Britain, but no customs border in the Irish Sea. The bridge will slowly recede into the mists of history.

  2. MBC says:

    They are planning this to make Scotland more like Northern Ireland with more immigration from Orange Order unionists. It’s an attempt to colonise us. Once Skye had a bridge it was over-run and it will be the same with this one if it ever gets built.

  3. Dougie Strang says:

    It’s really interesting to see the swing in the North towards a united Ireland — I suspect partly down to Brexit, but also the fact that the Republic has modernised and the Catholic Church no longer holds sway over society and politics. One thing I fear is that if Ireland gets its act together quick, and unites, there will be quite a migration of hard-core Unionists, who couldn’t stomach leaving the UK. Given the links between Belfast and Glasgow, we know where they’re likely to head.

    1. I don’t know. Is that what they’d do?

      Or stay and fight?

      1. MBC says:

        There are already a lot of Northern Irish people in Edinburgh. I keep running in to them canvassing for Yes. Unionist to the core. It worries me, this migration. I think a lot of them would come over here.

      2. David Allan says:

        Unfortunately the fighting will likely take place anywhere where the protectors of the union and union flag believe a threat exists. Unionists will never relocate to England , Rangers don’t play there!

        I’m afraid the Unionist rabble will feature more next time round.

        Scotland should ban the order/the sectarian organisation they belong to now.

    2. Jo says:

      I find it surprising reading comment, right across Blogland and newspaper comment sections, how casually people suggest that a united Ireland is on the cards and that it’ll be a case of a vote and that’ll be it. I think that’s naïve in the extreme.

      I care deeply about Scotland and love it dearly but the one thing that frightens me is the clear link between sectarian troubles here and NI. I detest the sort of place the biggest city in Scotland becomes when sectarianism rears its ugly head. I am in no doubt that should the prospect of reunification become likely there will be violence both in NI and here in Scotland too.

      1. MBC says:

        The sectarianism is imported. The Orange Order is imported. It wasn’t just Irish Catholics who have fled Ireland to settle in Scotland. The Proddies came too, Catholic migration has largely stopped but Protestant migration to Scotland continues. A lot of them in Ayrshire. That’s why it return Tories. A lot of NI Proddies in Edinburgh, middle class ones, but they shore up the Tory vote. This migration has gone under the radar, but canvassing in Edinburgh South I run into a lot of NI Tories. I think the bridge project is aimed at ‘strengthening the union’ or colonising Scotland with NI bigots. Apparently they feel they are Scottish. We don’t feel they are Scottish, but they do.

        1. Jo says:

          My understanding, I’m not an expert, is that it was Scots who went to Ulster. Many there today claim ancestry with those “Ulster Scots”.

          1. MBC says:

            That’s right. But whilst there they encountered conditions not present in Scotland, and cut off from the rest of Scotland, morphed into something else. I do not recognise these people as countrymen, any more than I recognise Australians as countrymen. They may claim to be Scottish but no Scottish person feels any brotherhood with them.

        2. Gashty McGonnard says:

          A lot of the replies here are casually racist, nativist, isolationist and deeply ignorant. Imagine if these comments about monarchists or republicans from Ulster were made about immigrants from England (or Timbuktu) with either ideology! There would be tutting and retractions all over the place.

          There’s a very ingrained streak of moral cowardice in how Scots discuss our western neighbours. We peep through the blinds at the supposed ruffians next door, secretly exhilarated by their squabbles while hoping they’ll keep them at a safe distance. In fact we have all the same faults and fears and fractures, but we silence them out of fear of ourselves.

          I reject the view that a middle class unionist from Belfast doesn’t have a mind that she can change when she gets to Edinburgh. I reject the view that working class youths in Govan don’t know what they’re fighting about – their opinions are widespread in our society, they just have nothing to lose by proclaiming them. The pretence that these people and opinions are ‘not really Scottish’ is just an attempt to enforce bourgeois norms and vilify the marginalised. Nearly half of Scots have recent ancestry on the island of Ireland – othering and dehumanising them serves only to enforce the constitutional status quo.

          The British state has fostered the notion that the subdued Celtic provinces will destroy each other without its pacifying control. If we want a peaceful independence we have to start dismantling those stories and begin engaging with the lived experience of people around us. We have to promise something better than the old divisions and act like we mean to deliver.

    1. “It’s the legacy of Scotland being used for generations as a rubbish tip for the poisonous and lethal waste products of British militarism.”


  4. SleepingDog says:

    This is clearly a prototype for Project Silver Bridge, envisioned by Michael Moorcock in his History of the Runestaff, described on Wikipedia thusly:
    “The future Britain is a brutal empire, bent on the total conquest of Europe, its armies (pouring across a huge bridge spanning the Channel) overwhelming country after country and committing terrible atrocities wherever they come.”

  5. Charles L. Gallagher says:


    Good piece but can I add that from time to time you see a large water-spout like a depth charge exploding. I witnessed one such explosion in 1962/3 while on passage to Belfast Lough to take part in the annual North Channel Yacht Race. Though it was a long time ago I seem to remember that the Chart showed the Beaufort Dyke Area surrounded by a red hatched warning circle.

    I have no doubt that if sufficient money was thrown at this project, try trebling the £15B, it just might be possible. However, I would remind all these big egos that a previous bridge that was built by engineers whose egos were greater than their collective knowledge of engineering and materials with the fatal loss of life when the bridge collapsed taking a passenger train with it. If the bridge is ever built it should not be open to the public until it has been fully tested in a force 10 westerly or SW gale with Johnson and his co-driver Foster taking a very heavy test load over their Folly. OK, I’m going to be humane and give them survival suits and life-jackets and not LOCK them in the cab.

    1. Thanks Charles – yes and there were explosives washed up after some of it was displaced a few years back. Beaufort’s Dyke is a disgrace.

  6. Jack collatin says:

    Come this December all twenty year olds in the North of Ireland will have know nothing but peace as the GFA reaches its twentieth birthday.
    ‘Peace’ of course is a relative concept, but given what went before, 30 years of murder and mayhem, where 3500 citizens died, and the six counties lived in perpetual fear of bombs, hatred and factionalism, and constantly on the brink of full on civil war, then today’s Generation Irish has known calm, and has been able to plan for a future that doesn’t depend on which dog collar is telling you what’s good for you and who to hate.

    The DUP, like the Ultras running what’s left of the Blue Tories in the UK, are on the way out.

    And they know it.
    There is a Middle Tier in the North of Ireland who are neither ‘Loyalist’ and Proddy, or ‘Republicans’ and Taigs.
    They have evolved into middle of the road Europeans, and since the collapse of the Catholic Theocracy in the South, and the descent into old age of the Religious fundamentalists in the North who have thwarted attempts to drag the North into the twentieth Century in respect of Gay Marriage, Abortion, to name but two, Panic has spread throughout the ‘conservatives on both sides of the ‘religious’ divide.
    No one under 45 making their way in the world in Ireland buys all this divide and conquer guff.

    Except of course the knuckle draggers whom the Daily Record and BBC Scotland insist on describing as ‘Republicans’ and Loyalists’ who stage a ‘march’ to be met by ‘protesters on cue, in Glasgow, wearing Celtic and Rangers strips.
    200 thugs sauntered through Glasgow lat week, and were met by roughly the same number of protesters, their joint aim being to cause mayhem in the streets and somehow justify their miserable lives as thugs and idiots.
    It cost me £160,000 in police costs, so that psychopaths could take to the streets in Scotland to fight for their Irish ’cause’.
    I say this to those of you who can read; fuck off to Ireland if you’re that committed to a country that is not here, but Over There.
    Behind both these sets of Greenjackets and Bluejackets, there are intelligent people inciting this mayhem.
    Thes people are violent psychos, so let’s stop calling them ‘Loyalists’ and ‘Republicans’. They are nothing of the sort.
    It certainly sell tickets at Ibrox and Parkhead.

    No one Over There who has any sense at all, believes that England ‘taking back control’ is of any benefit or relevance to the Emerald Isle.
    Like Scotland, and I include my 71 year old self here, The Old Bitter Order has at last melted into history:
    we are dying off, and Ian Paisley and the Cardinals are losing their parishioners to the Grim Reaper.

    It is argued that the pensioners won it for the Brit Nats in September 2014, through a combination of fear and lies over pensions and the price of Steradent going through the roof.

    Well most of that ‘generation’ have shuffled off this mortal coil and are reaping their rich reward in the heaven, or not, which their belief systems promised them.

    They had their ‘once in a generation’ plebiscite.

    The world has turned over on its axis since then. Trump, Brexit, Johnson, Farage.

    Scotland and the North of Ireland, and Wales for that matter, owe no loyalty or allegiance to England now.

    They are leaving Europe, and good luck to them.

    There will be no bridge between Ballycastle and Campbeltown.
    It is just too ridiculous for words.
    The DUP know that the jig’s up, and Northern Ireland has had enough; there will be a border poll, and Ireland will reunite, but not as the old Eire of the clergy, or the stifling world that bible thumpers of the North advocate, but as a new modern state with the EU.

    ‘Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command’.
    And no’ before time.

    Scotland and Ireland will evolve as vibrant European Nations from this Ultra Right Wing anarchy.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Jack collatin, way to slander anarchy.

      1. Jack collatin says:

        Written in a rage, Sleepingdog.
        My rage may be measured by my typos and terrible grammar and syntax.

        We are in the twenty-first century of course, and I use the subject of a pronoun rather than the object…but the use of the word ‘anarchy’ is apposite.
        There is no government and a mad man walks these lands destroying everything before him.

  7. Richard Benifer says:

    I agree with Malcolm Kerr, this seems to be a distraction. I’m not alone in thinking that this has a lot to do with internet search results.

    Johnson’s championing of the abandoned farcical and expensive London Garden Bridge project is not helpful to him. This proposal for a Scotland – Ireland bridge doesn’t need to be a serious suggestion; it just needs to bury the Garden Bridge story further down the search results.

    Similarly, in a tv interview Johnson made a ridiculous claim that he relaxes by building model buses from crates. This was seemingly intended to push down the search results older articles associating him with notorious and spurious claims on the side of a bus during the 2016 referendum. The fact that he told this tale so ineptly strongly suggests that the ploy wasn’t his idea.

    1. Wul says:

      That’s an interesting theory Richard. I did wonder at the time why Boris was bringing up “buses” when he had so much baggage attached to the word “bus”. And in the process making a bit of a diddy of himself. Better a diddy than a liar of public record though.

      I do know that you can hire PR people to “wash” your internet profile, and pushing the nasty stuff onto page 2 of Google or beyond is one of their strategies.

  8. Douglas Wilson says:

    The best description of Norther Ireland I have read recently can be found in Bernard MacLaverty’s superb “Midwinter Break”, through the voice of one its characters, Gerry:

    “Northern Ireland was a country given away by someone who didn’t own it. The resulting State was like an extreme Protestant version of Franco’s Spain. It would go on for ever because those in power had arranged it in such a gerrymandered way that voting was useless. It was like putting your cross in invisible ink. And it wasn’t just Catholics who were disenfranchised – it was the same for anybody of the Left”.


    “A place which had been born in convulsions of sectarian hatred. One of the men in government – a Prime Minister no less – said he would not employ a Roman Catholic and urged the rest of his cronies to follow suit. The country that came into being was ruled, or misruled, by a right-wing Protestant majority under the nose of the Brits. And when the time came for the British to sort things out, to unpick the knot they had tied so tightly over the centuries, they made a fearful bollocks of it. Bloody Sunday was…an echo of previous British massacres committed to maintaining the Empire which had turned the maps of the world red…”


    “If the end of human decency was the price of a united Ireland, Gerry wanted nothing to do with it…”

    If the Bridge were ever built, a fitting name would be Divide & Rule… it’s easy to see where Johnson is going with this…

    1. Jack collatin says:

      Chapeaux, Douglas,

  9. Richard Easson says:

    Would it be a suspension bridge? Suspending disbelief.

    1. Jack collatin says:

      It would be built of wooden pallets with millions of Guinness cans keeping it afloat, Richard.
      After all these seems to be a glut of pallets, which probably explains why they burn so many of them on the 11th July each year.
      Johnson is about to caw the legs frae under the DUP and announce a border down the Irish Sea.
      Then the sparks will fly.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.