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Northern Ireland news

Arlene Foster accused of 'peddling nonsense' over bridge to Scotland

DUP leader Arlene Foster speaks before an Orange Order march in Cowdenbeath in Scotland. Picture by David Cheskin/PA Wire
By Lynsey Bews, Political Reporter, Press Association Scotland

DUP leader Arlene Foster has been accused of "peddling nonsense" after calling on Scots to back proposals to build a bridge to Northern Ireland.

Mrs Foster said there was "growing support" for the idea as she addressed an Orange parade in Fife at the weekend.

She was the main speaker at the Cowdenbeath event, organised by the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland.

The DUP proposed a feasibility study into building a bridge to Scotland in 2015.

"The connection between our two countries has always been special," she said.

"What better way to cement that relationship than through a bridge?

"Amongst all the nasty and abusive comments made about the Orange wouldn't it be great to become an actual bridge builder between Northern Ireland and Scotland?

"Whilst some foolishly attempt to use Brexit to build a border between Scotland and Northern Ireland, we are more progressive, we want to build a bridge."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We are keen to explore all potential opportunities for improving Scotland's transport links, but as with all proposed infrastructure investment, decisions would need to be founded on a robust business case."

However, former Alliance minister Stephen Farry tweeted: "Incredible that DUP are still peddling this nonsense when so much of local NI infrastructure badly in need of investment and other urgent projects need support.

"This is not currently feasible. Dangerous distraction from resolving current crises and accountability over deadlock."

Speaking before the event on Saturday, Mrs Foster also made a plea for certainty on Brexit.

"I think most people want to see that now. We're two years after the referendum," she said.

"It's important that we get that certainty soon.

"It takes two to tango and we need the European Union to step up to the plate and to recognise that Brexit is happening, so let's make it a good Brexit for us, and a good Brexit for the European Union as well."

Labour and the Liberal Democrats in Scotland last month criticised Mrs Foster's decision to attend the parade, stating her time would be better spent in Northern Ireland where there is no devolved government in place following its collapse more than a year ago.

The former first minister - who addressed the parade but did not participate in the march through Cowdenbeath - said: "I am the last in a long line of unionist leaders coming along here.

"I am not really sure why people would object to me coming here today. This is my culture actually, this is who I am."

With the event celebrating King William victory at the Battle of the Boyne, she also said that "we need to be like William and build alliances for the good of all the country".

"This country needs to be a shared place where people are able to live free

from intolerance and hatred.

"Such bigotry was not part of King William's mindset and it should not be

part of ours."

Police Scotland said the march was attended by around 4,000 people, with no significant incidents reported.

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