Why Ian Blackford has demanded £20bn from Boris Johnson

PMQs: Boris Johnson hits out at ‘uncivil’ Ian Blackford

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Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, has lashed out at Boris Johnson after he ditches a proposal to build a bridge or tunnel to connect Northern Ireland to Scotland. Mr Blackford has called on Boris Johnson to give Scotland “its fair share” of £20 billion for scrapping these plans even though he described the proposals as “daft”.

Boris Johnson has long been a supporter of building a fixed link between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The PM asked Sir Peter Hendy, the Network Rail chairman, to investigate upgrading connectivity across the Union.

Sir Hendy’s review (the Union Connectivity Review) is expected to be published soon, but a Government source has let slip that a bridge or tunnel connecting Scotland and Northern Ireland has been ruled out.

Part of the review looked at whether the building of a bridge or tunnel across the North Channel between Stranraer and Larne would be feasible.

According to the Telegraph, a Government source said such a project “would be technically very challenging at the moment”.

They added: “That’s not to say it won’t become viable at some point in the future, but at the moment it would be very, very difficult and expensive.”

Sir Hendy’s forecasted costs and the engineering challenges that would come with such a huge project, has forced the PM to ditch this plan.

In response to reports the project will be scrapped, Mr Blackford has demanded that Westminster should hand over a staggering £20billion to devolved governments so they can spend the money themselves on “transport and connectivity projects”.

Mr Blackford said: “Boris Johnson’s plans were daft but the funding suggested can and should be made available.

“It could then be spent on transport and connectivity projects that are worthwhile and deliverable and not spent over the heads of the devolved governments.”

He then tweeted: “Another broken promise from Westminster. If the bridge isn’t going ahead, Scotland should get its fair share of the £20billion investment we were promised, so we can spend it on worthwhile and deliverable transport projects in communities across Scotland.”

The ditching of these plans comes as no surprise, as the Government was forced to officially shelve the eastern leg of the HS2 high-speed rail project last week.

Building a bridge or tunnel between Northern Ireland and Scotland would be fraught with costly engineering challenges.

According to the Times, engineers said building a tunnel connecting the two would be a “non-starter”, as it would take too long for emergency services to arrive if a crash occurred in the middle of the tunnel.

One issue is that the Channel is far too deep. It reaches 300m deep in places; building support towers at this level would be prohibitively expensive.

The Channel was also used as an ammunition dump in the Second World War, so building the bridge could be dangerous.

The strong gales across the Channel could mean the bridge may be shut frequently, making the project unviable.

In response to these leaked reports, the Department for Transport told the BBC: “We don’t comment on speculation. The Union Connectivity Review will be published shortly.”

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