The news that no feasibility study has yet been commissioned on the idea of a bridge linking Portpatrick to Larne in Northern Ireland has exposed the “empty rhetoric” of Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the so-called Boris bridge, according to South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour Transport Spokesperson Colin Smyth .

In February, Number 10 said work was under way “by a range of government officials” to look at the idea of building a Scotland-Northern Ireland bridge.

However, on Friday, the Cabinet Office told the BBC no detailed feasibility work had yet started and no money had been spent.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said: “This news proves that there was no substance in Boris’ call for a bridge linking Scotland and Northern Ireland and is yet another example of the Prime Minister’s empty rhetoric. It is clear that it has been little more than an attempt to divert attention from the fact that Brexit will lead to barriers not bridges between Scotland and Northern Ireland, with more checks needed on goods being transported across the Irish sea.

“You don’t make an announcement in favour of a major infrastructure project like this unless you have done the most basic feasibility work, and this proves none has been done.

“In sharp contrast, plenty of work has been done by businesses and local action groups showing where the A75 and A77 need to be upgraded, and which rail routes in our region must be improved.

“Instead of indulging in fantasy politics about a bridge, the UK Government could give the local economy a huge boost by announcing plans that these roads and rail lines will be an early priority for investment to rebuild the economy after the current Covid-19 crisis abates and in the short term provide more support to the ferry ports where we are seeing dozens of jobs already axed in recent weeks.

“We already have a bridge to Northern Ireland: it’s called the Cairnryan Ferry Port. People don’t complain about the ferries to Larne or Belfast, they complain about the journey to get the ferries and that is what we should be focused on tackling.”

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