CHINESE media are bemused over the controversy surrounding the Scotland-Northern Ireland bridge, according to the leading architect behind the idea.

Professor Alan Dunlop said the surprise of Chinese news agencies is partly because “the political system there is different, it’s not a democracy” and that the country “looks more positively on projects like this”.

Professor Dunlop’s £20 billion idea for a connection between Larne and Portpatrick, which was first revealed in The National, was partly inspired by the world’s longest sea bridge connecting Hong Kong to Zhuhai-Macau.

Professor Dunlop – who has two adopted Chinese daughters and has taught at universities in Suzhou, a city west of Shanghai – said Scotland should consider asking Chinese experts to advise on building the bridge.

The project has been covered in the international media, including in Canada, Sweden and Australia. But Professor Dunlop said speaking to China’s Xinhua News Agency was different because of the country’se expertisein building bridges. 

"China is different because it can see a pathway into how to do this – it has resources and bridges built by British engineers,” he said. “It has no issue in bringing in expertise from other countries.”

The bridge plan sparked controversy after it was taken on by Boris Johnson, prompting Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson to write to UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps yesterday to say there have not been any discussions with the Scottish or Stormont administrations, despite transport being devolved.

He agreed with Nicola Sturgeon, who wants money to instead be sent to Scotland and Northern Ireland to be spent on infrastructure projects.

But Professor Dunlop rejected Matheson’s claims, saying the UK could learn from “the more ambitious attitude” of the Chinese.

He said: “The Chinese are looking towards the future. Matheson demanded £20bn be used for something else. The Chinese have a more ambitious attitude – it helps that there is no democracy but they look toward progress.”

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The Hong Kong to Zhuhai-Macau bridge has been built to withstand typhoons, leading Professor Dunlop to reject criticism that his bridge will not be able to cope with bad weather in the Irish Channel. “No matter what the circumstances and weather are, we have the expertise to overcome them,” he added.

The topic was discussed on Question Time on Thursday night, with SNP MP Joanna Cherry saying she wouldn’t rule out the idea as in 10 years Scotland will be independent and Ireland will reunify.

Professor Dunlop said whatever happens with politics, the project will be positive for the UK.

He added: “I have tried to stay clear of the politics ... it is in a state of flux but a physical connection for goods from one country to another can only be a positive thing.”

He said the bridge should be funded by the Scottish, Westminster and Irish Governments – like the Oresund Bridge bridge between Denmark and Sweden – with investment from China and overseas also encouraged.