My Column

Its no way to build bridges for business.

  • Date: Monday 17th February 2020
column Picture

It has been a big week for bridges in Scotland. Yes, that’s right, bridges. It’s certainly a line I never thought I’d write in my column.  

Not one, but two big concrete news stories hit the front pages last week.

Storm Ciara swept across Scotland bringing misery to commuters and businesses across the country. With hurricane force winds, heavy rainfall and low temperatures, Storm Ciara was unfortunately just a bridge too far for Scotland’s Queensferry Crossing.

The £1.35bn bridge, which was hailed as both weatherproof and able to help save the economy and hauliers millions of pounds in fuel costs, diversions and missed appointments through staying open in all conditions - was closed due to ice.

The bridge, which connects Edinburgh and Fife, sees more than 24 million vehicles cross it each year and many of those are either commuters going to and from work or goods being transported through the country.

With short closures both damaging and costly to the economy, having the bridge out of action for a full two days due to ice, will see Scottish businesses feel the after effects for a while to come.

To be fair, this is the first time the bridge has had to close since it was officially opened by the Queen back in 2017. However, try telling that to the thousands forced to take diversions of over 30 miles and adding on an extra hour or so to their travel time as a result of the supposed ‘weatherproof’ bridge closing.

Let’s be clear though, closing the bridge was the right thing to do. Especially with huge blocks of ice falling on to the road below. We’re fortunate I’m discussing the lucky escape of eight separate commuters and businesses whose vehicles were damaged due to the falling ice, rather than any fatalities.

Surely someone should have considered our rather temperamental winter weather when designing the Queensferry Crossing?

The Scottish Government has been accused of “dragging its feet” over the installation of ice sensors on the Queensferry Crossing – especially when they promised that sensors would have been in place by October last year.

Our economy needs reliable infrastructure to connect businesses and supply chains all across the country to efficiently move goods and services. Yes, the Queensferry Crossing has helped hugely since it opened, but surely our government leaders should have foreseen problems like this.

With Ciara now moved on and Dennis taking up the mantle, there are real fears that more wintry weather will lead to further closures to a key part of the country’s road network.

Like Dennis there is another storm brewing and it is likely to cause more misery and pain - however this one is named Boris Johnston and along with a lot of hot air it’s potentially bringing a £20billion bridge linking Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The bold Boris announced last week he has signed off on a feasibility study into whether the construction of a combined bridge and tunnel connecting the British mainland and Northern Ireland would be worthwhile.

I’m not an engineer, however I do know how to invest money wisely and I certainly would not be betting on a 20 mile bridge across the Irish Sea.

Out with the fact the route would need to travel through Beaufort's Dyke, the UK's largest offshore dump site for conventional and chemical munitions that were dumped there after the Second World War, is there actually a real need to create this link?

With Portpatrick cited as the potential gateway for the bridge, the rural west of Scotland fishing village that sits two hours from Glasgow and three from Edinburgh, doesn’t strike me as the most well connected business hub.

For Northern Ireland, Belfast would be the closest city to the bridge, but with a population of just over 500,000, I’m not seeing the long term financial and economic benefits that such a bridge would bring.

I can think of a lot of things we can use £20billion for - sustainable housing, ending homelessness or even ice sensors on the Queensferry Crossing.

Hopefully common sense will prevail when it comes to the proposed link bridge. However, stranger things have certainly happened and we may be heading towards stormy waters.

 

Wing

 

It always warms my heart to see the kind-hearted and caring work that businesses across the country do to play their part in raising money for a good cause. I’ve been in high spirits this last week then from hearing that in 2019, retail businesses across Scotland have donated more than £18 million in funds to various charities.

According to a report published last week by the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), this generosity has been able to support good causes of all types and sizes and further bolstering the positive perspective that the people of Scotland have as a charitable nation.

John Brodie, chairman of the SRC, was quick to praise these efforts as ‘making a real difference’ and rightly so.

Since 2016, over £59 million has actually been raised through fundraising activities, charity events and volunteering by the retail industry in Scotland and has changed the lives of thousands in communities nationwide.

And it’s not just retail businesses that have playing their part in supporting third sector groups in Scotland either. Aberdeen-born housebuilder CALA Homes has recently announced that they’re taking an important step towards tackling homelessness through a partnership with charity group Social Bite.

This wonderful venture will see the CALA team volunteer both time and money towards Social Bite’s continued efforts to support those who find themselves sleeping rough.

They’re even literally aiming to put a roof over people’s heads through a donation scheme that will see a cash donation for each home built at Prince’s Quay, located just outside Glasgow city centre. 

There’s something that just seems poetically right about a housebuilding company going out of their way to help the homeless. Its vital work like this that I feel all Scottish businesses should ensure is part of their strategies.

 

 

Laugh

Now, the weather being as chaotic as it has been lately, the last thing I can imagine people would want to do is don a kilt to brave the elements. But with the annual Kiltwalk just around the corner, comedian Kevin Bridges took to social media this week to tell his 1.3 million followers he’s been ‘cutting aboot’ his home in preparation.

The Clydebank legend used his position as ‘a social media influencer’ to spur businesses and participants to get up and give it a go, raising money for charity. Clearly a part of an ongoing partnership with the charity events, it’s quite commendable to see something as simple as a social post from a key Scottish figure generate so much interest and all for a good cause. Businesses can learn a lot from this – the simpler the message, the better. 

 

Weep – 130 words – Braehead

Scotland is home to its own fair share of all-in-one shopping destinations. From city centre high streets to large rural outlets, we’re kind of spoilt of choice when it comes to quick trip round the shops.

Which is why it’s actually quite sad news to hear about the behind-the-scenes going on with intu, owners of Braehead Shopping Centre. With shares plunging last week due to investors pulling out of plans to give them a lifeline out of debt issues, it’s a shaky time for the retail haven, located just outside of Glasgow.

With so many stores and so many jobs, if anything was to happen to the stability of Braehead, the repercussions would be grim, not only for fashion fans and bargain hunters, but for the Scottish economy as whole.

 

 

Back to column listings

Recent News

News Archive