THE leading architect who first called for a Celtic bridge linking Scotland and Ireland has urged Nicola Sturgeon to "set aside her political differences" with Boris Johnson to back a feasibility study into the project.

Professor Alan Dunlop, a fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, who unveiled his for the connection in The National in January 2018 spoke out after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said an assessment should be conducted.

Dunlop said: “I’ve been calling for a feasibility study into the bridge since The National first broke the story early in 2018. I’m delighted that the Taoiseach has now joined the UK Prime Minister and come out in support of the idea.

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“I would urge our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to put politics aside and do the same. A bridge to link Scotland and the UK to Ireland is a project fit for the 21st century. There is also interest in the project internationally. I’ve spoken about it with colleagues in the USA and on visits to Australia and China this year. We have the engineering and architectural talent here in Scotland to create such a structure. Let’s look at it seriously.”

The National: Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of the vote

Johnson, the DUP and Scottish Brexit Secretary Michael Russell have spoken in favour of the idea. Last week Johnson described it as a “very interesting idea”, adding: “Watch this space.”

Now Varadkar has said he had discussed the idea with Johnson revealing he told the PM it was “worth examining”. But the Taoiseach said he had also told Johnson he would expect the UK to pay for it.

“At which point he suggested, ‘no, no, the EU is going to pay for it’,” Varadkar said.

“So that’s definitely not going to happen, because neither Northern Ireland or Scotland are going to be in the EU. But it was kind of half serious, half joking in a way.

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“But all messing aside, I do think at the very least a high-level engineering assessment should be done as to whether it is a viable proposal.”

Varadkar said: “I know people dismiss these things out of hand, but they used to dismiss the Channel Tunnel as well – the idea of building a tunnel between France and Britain – and I know what I see when I see a bridge tunnel between Denmark and Sweden, when you fly over New Orleans and you see 110 miles of bridge, it’s extraordinary,” he said.

The National: Leo Varadkar

“I think we need to at least check out is this viable in engineering terms and how much money it would cost to do.”

The Taoiseach said there were “loads of really good projects” the UK and Ireland could work on together that “might not cost as much and would definitely be more feasible than a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland”.

However, he added: “But in my pursuit of those ones I’m not going to dismiss the one that the Prime Minister’s particularly keen on.”