THE Scottish Government has been formally approached by Swedish architects proposing that a bridge to Northern Ireland can be built ... and combined with 140 wind turbines to power hundreds of thousands of homes.

In September last year, it was revealed that Boris Johnson asked his officials to draw up costings of building a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

This led to Scottish Secretary Alister Jack stating he backed a link between the two countries, saying he was “on exactly the same page” as the Prime Minister, despite favouring a tunnel.

Jack claimed the connection could be built by 2030 and would boost the economy of both Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The £20 billion project would need to be at least 28 miles in length to connect the two countries between Portpatrick and Larne in Northern Ireland.

Transport is devolved to both the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive.

The speculation has led a Swedish firm, which claims it is “known for its innovative solutions to diverse tasks in infrastructure”, to submit its eco-friendly plans to the First Minister.

In the letter, sent directly to Nicola Sturgeon, the firm whose name has been redacted by Scottish Government officials, submitted its proposals for “the exciting power bridge”.

It adds: “Our concept is to combine a complete transportation infrastructure with a wind turbine farm.

“The foundations of the bridge are extended upwards into pylons each supporting a 1.5MW wind turbine. One hundred and 40 of these pylons placed along the length of the bridge will carry an equal amount of turbines producing 210,000kWh of electricity, about 1,800 million kW per year.

“The estimated yearly electric energy consumption of a UK citizen is on average 4,000kWh, this means that the power bridge would be able to supply energy to 450,000 inhabitants in the near region.”

The Stockholm-based architect also proposed that the structure cater for both road traffic and trains.

The letter adds: “Regarding transportation, the bridge will boast four car lanes on the upper level separated by a service lane dedicated to the wind turbines’ maintenance as well as two train lanes on the lower level.

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“This innovative work defines an ecological and sustainable design for future bridges and should the UK go ahead with this idea, it could become the number one instigator in this field.

“We would be delighted to provide more information on the subject should you wish to develop this project further.”

Such a power bridge does not yet exist. Some suspension bridges across the globe are powered by nearby wind farms, while proposals in Spain and Italy involve placing wind turbines underneath the arches of bridges and viaducts. Germany and Sweden have proposals to link up the two counties’ power grids with a connection.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that almost 14 million trees have been chopped down across Scotland for wind turbines to be built.

The Scottish Government aims to generate 100% of its electricity from renewable sources this year. Half of all energy produced, including heating, is set to be provided from renewable energy by 2030. As of the end of 2018, the total capacity of all renewable electricity in Scotland, including wind and solar, was 10.9GW.

A letter, now made public, was sent to Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson last year by North Down Borough Council in Northern Ireland. In it, the local authority claims that it was told by Scottish Government officials in 2018 that a connection was “an important element of your ongoing review” into transport infrastructure.

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The letter adds: “With regard to the possibility of a bridge, you advised that this would be a complex task and that it would be premature to speculate on options, but that Transport Scotland officials had been instructed to initiate discussions around exploring connectivity issues between Scotland and Northern Ireland.”

But Matheson and his Northern Ireland counterpart Nichola Mallon have written to the UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, telling him the link is not a priority “for either government” and stressed that the UK’s lack of dialogue with the Scottish and Northern Irish administrations over the project “does not respect devolution”.

In his letter to Shapps, Matheson blamed “budget constraints from successive UK Governments” for a lack of transport investment having “held back progress for our communities”.

Matheson bluntly said he “looks forward to hearing from you in the availability of the £20 billion to us” rather than “waste significant money and resource that could be put to better use on practical, deliverable projects”.

He added: “I strongly believe that if £20 billion is available for investment in infrastructure in Scotland and Northern Ireland that rather than indulging the Prime Minister with this vanity project, such funding should be made available to our respective governments so it could be better spent on meeting the priorities of the people we represent.”

The bridge proposals hit a major stumbling block when bomb-disposal experts warned it would be too dangerous to build a bridge due to more than one million tonnes of unexploded munitions thought to be stashed in the 30-mile-long Beaufort’s Dyke – which lies on the most direct route for a connection.

The plans were subject to a scathing assessment by leading economic think tank, the Fraser of Allander Institute (FAI). The FAI said the concept would clash with climate emergency aims and suggested the money could be spent on better things.

In a resounding opposition to the plan, the FAI said: “It won’t deliver the economic boost some claim, it isn’t a priority, it would go to the wrong location, it wouldn’t be consistent with climate change objectives, and the money could be better spent on other things.

“Apart from that, it’s a cracking idea.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government has not investigated or undertaken any feasibility for a fixed link between Scotland and Northern Ireland and has no current plans to do so.

“Infrastructure investment should focus on projects that improve lives, support communities boost, our economy and work towards net zero. That is how we are planning Scotland’s future infrastructure investment.”

Westminster is standing by its ambition for the connection.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to ambitious improvements to infrastructure.

“We are looking at a wide range of schemes to improve connectivity and drive economic growth for all parts of the UK, using the power of the union.”