A FEW days ago, a friend who was just back from Fife expressed concern that the Queensferry Crossing was scheduled to open today. From what he had seen, much still needed to be done. While he is not an expert on these matters, it seems likely that midnight oil will have been burned, overtime accrued and blood pressure raised to boiling point to make sure that this most beautiful, elegant structure met its deadline.

Like most of us, I can’t wait to see it in operation. I was not, however, one of the quarter million who applied for tickets to walk across it this weekend. I’d rather zip over at 70 mph and keep my time in the vertiginous realm of gannets and gulls as brief as possible.

With cable-stays fanning out like a spider’s first web, there’s no denying the bridge’s aesthetic appeal. It rises from the water so delicately, you’d think the designers wanted to make it as unostentatious as possible, to allow the weather to pass over and through it, and the Firth of Forth go on its way undisturbed. By comparison, the nearby hulk of the rust-red rail bridge looks even more cumbersome and ancient. No wonder poet Douglas Dunn has described it as “a queue of dinosaurs”.

Yet there was a time when both old bridges were tangible proof that a small northern country could produce some of the best engineering talent in the world. For two centuries since the days of Thomas Telford, James Watt and the Stevensons we led the way in the building of bridges, railways and lighthouses. Sadly, except for the sea-bed it stands on, the Queensferry Crossing is no more Scottish than the Colosseum. While it has provided jobs for Scottish sub-contractors, the main construction firms are from elsewhere, notably Spain and America. Early evidence of the global dimension of the build came in 2013 when a Chinese ship – flying a Saltire – sailed up the Forth, carrying steel to make the road deck. Other national snubs followed, with the result that while one can admire the bridge, it is hard not to feel the diminishment of native capability and prowess that it represents.

Most who cross it won’t give that a second thought. Nevertheless there are other reasons to view what is being dubbed the Queen of Bridges with mixed feelings. Its benefits are inarguable: it can carry the increased volume of traffic to and from the capital with ease, and protection against the elements means there will be far fewer days when it is closed in stormy weather. Commuters and businesses can thus travel uninterrupted, with immediate advantages to the economy.

But there is another side. Within 25 years of its opening in 1964, the original road bridge was proving inadequate for the rising number of vehicles. This is not the place to rehash the protracted wrangling behind the building of this third bridge. It is, however, worth noting that the only answer we seem to have to the escalating tide of cars and lorries is to build, expand, and accommodate. Of course smoother traffic flow will improve air quality and cut journey times and emissions. Yet it also sends out a signal that the remorseless onward roll of cars is looked upon as inevitable, that everything will be done to allow drivers to proceed at full throttle, and none of us will be encouraged to rethink our addiction to the wheel. For those who’d rather avoid the road, meanwhile, will railway commuter links be upgraded to offer a greener option? One doubts it.

Nobody wants a return to the miserable winter of 2015-16 when the old bridge was closed for repair, causing havoc and showing how urgently an alternative was needed. Even so, while there is no arguing that the Queensferry Crossing has been essential, it raises fresh issues.

One advocate has enthused that Fife will soon become a suburb of Edinburgh. Kirkcaldy, Markinch and Cupar, it seems, are destined to become a dormitory of the capital, like Tranent or West Linton. You could be forgiven for thinking the ultimate purpose of improved road networks and infrastructure is to airbrush the boundaries between counties and towns, and turn everywhere into an outpost of the closest city. If this is the case, a blander future lies ahead.

So is it possible for something to be good and bad at the same time? Absolutely. You can marvel at this feat of engineering, but still bemoan the reasons that lie behind it. Just because it is necessary does not mean that it represents progress in the true meaning of the word. It is simply more of the same: bigger, better, and faster. For the moment, that and the increased wealth it will generate, seem to be the priority.

As you look at its soaring towers, piercing the clear blue sky, you think there must come a time when we stop striving for ever-better, and plan instead for smaller, slower, more sustainable. The Queensferry Crossing is undoubtedly magnificent, but for me it is a bridge of sighs.