PM poised to announce study into Irish Sea road crossing, claims minister

Boris Johnson is poised to announce a feasibility study into a new road crossing between Scotland and Northern Ireland, according to his Scottish Secretary.

Alister Jack said the UK should be "ambitious" in its approach to new infrastructure, claiming the country is "lagging behind" other nations.

Asked why there had been no money for the project in Chancellor Rishi Sunak's Budget, Mr Jack said: "Watch this space."

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, he said: "The Prime Minister I expect will announce a feasibility study into the link to Northern Ireland, I hope the Scottish Government will back it."

Mr Johnson has repeatedly spoken about the prospect of a bridge linking the south of Scotland with Northern Ireland – although Mr Jack suggested it could instead be a tunnel, or a combination of the two.

He said: "I think we should be ambitious. If we think about HS2, from London Euston to Birmingham Airport on HS2 will take only 38 minutes, there is huge improvements in transport infrastructure around the world.

"We are lagging behind in this country and we believe we should look at all options."

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Rishi Sunak delivers his first Budget
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Rishi Sunak delivers his first Budget
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak stands outside No 11 Downing Street and holds up the traditional red box that contains the budget speech for the media, he will then leave to make budget speech to House of Commons, in London, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will announce the first budget since Britain left the European Union. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, centre, stands outside No 11 Downing Street and holds up the traditional red box that contains the budget speech for the media, he will then leave to make budget speech to House of Commons, in London, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will announce the first budget since Britain left the European Union. Sunak is flanked by his team of treasury ministers . (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak stands outside No 11 Downing Street as he holds the traditional red box that contains the budget speech for the media, he will then leave to make budget speech to House of Commons, in London, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will announce the first budget since Britain left the European Union. His ministerial team are seen leaving right. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak waves to the media as he stands outside No 11 Downing Street and holds up the traditional red box that contains the budget speech, he will then leave to make budget speech to House of Commons, in London, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will announce the first budget since Britain left the European Union. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Police remove a climate change protestor from the road during a demonstration on the budget outside Parliament in London, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will announce the first budget since Britain left the European Union. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
A man dressed as the Chancellor of the Exchequer holds a facsimile of the budget box with a message 'treasure the earth' and a woman dressed as the Speaker of the House of Commons holds a sign as they participate in a demonstration on the budget outside Parliament in London, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will announce the first budget since Britain left the European Union. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Police remove a climate change protestor from the road during a demonstration on the budget outside Parliament in London, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will announce the first budget since Britain left the European Union. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak walks from No 11 Downing Street as he holds the traditional red box that contains the budget speech for the media, he will then leave to make budget speech to House of Commons, in London, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will announce the first budget since Britain left the European Union. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak walks from No 11 Downing Street as he holds the traditional red box that contains the budget speech for the media, he will then leave to make budget speech to House of Commons, in London, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will announce the first budget since Britain left the European Union. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A facsimile of the budget box with a message 'treasure the earth' sits among other protest signs prior to a demonstration on the budget outside Parliament in London, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will announce the first budget since Britain left the European Union. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Chancellor Rishi Sunak (centre) outside 11 Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to deliver his Budget.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak (left) meeting with the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney in Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to deliver his Budget.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivers his Budget in the House of Commons, London.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) alongside Chancellor Rishi Sunak during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak outside 11 Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to deliver his Budget.
Larry the cat outside 11 Downing Street, London, as Chancellor Rishi Sunak heads to the House of Commons to deliver his Budget.
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Experts have warned the depth of the Irish Sea and the presence of dumped munitions would cause problems for any crossing.

The project could cost a reported £20 billion, although Mr Johnson has previously said it would "only cost about £15 billion".

Boris Johnson has repeatedly spoken about the prospect of a bridge linking Scotland and Northern Ireland (Alberto Pezzali/PA)

The Scottish Government has insisted better uses could be found for the funds – with Transport Secretary Michael Matheson making this point in a recent letter to his UK counterpart Grant Shapps.

Meanwhile economic experts at the Fraser of Allander Institute said a new crossing would neither boost the economy nor improve connectivity.

In a damning assessment of the proposal, it stated: "In short, 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."

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