His keynote speech to an audience of international academics, architects, and engineers at Robert Gordon University called upon the Scottish, Irish and UK governments to get together to commission a feasibility study, to establish the economic and social benefits and assess the geological and engineering challenges inherent in the project.
“We have the engineering and architectural talent and the capability to build this project; it would be a transformative economic generator and a world first,” he said.
Professor Dunlop made the comparison with Norway, a country with a population similar to Scotland that is in the process of investing £30bn to create the Norwegian Coastal Highway: a 685 route from Kristiansand in the south to Trondheim in the north. The road will cross 20 fjords, some over 600 metres deep, using floating bridges and tunnel connections.
“Theirs is a pioneering and remarkable infrastructure project and a sign of confidence for a forward-looking innovative country. Scotland and Ireland surely can achieve the same.”
He discussed the Øresund Bridge which connects Copenhagen in Denmark with Malmo in Sweden. Copenhagen has a population that is comparable to Glasgow, and Malmo with Edinburgh. The Øresund Bridge was the result of true collaboration by countries, each with a distinct, proud history but who share a Nordic Cultural Heritage. Over 25 million people use the crossing each year and the Bridge has made a £10bn return on the initial investment since its opening 18 years ago. It has established the Oresund Economic Region which employs 4m million people.
However, Professor Dunlop’s argument was not only about economic benefit to the Ayrshire and Antrim coasts or Cowal peninsula.
Prod Dunlop continues: “Politics in Scotland, Ireland, and in the rest of the UK are in an extreme state of flux; with questions over Brexit, border controls, and even independence still to be answered.
“The political failure to grasp the opportunity as another example of lack of vision and authentic leadership. A bridge link will re-balance the over concentration of power in the South of England and could bring extraordinary benefit to many areas. It would be an investment in the true north.”