Carmichael backs bridge project

Campaigners hope to restore the Union Chain Bridge at Horncliffe to its former glory in time for its 200th birthday in 2020.
Campaigners hope to restore the Union Chain Bridge at Horncliffe to its former glory in time for its 200th birthday in 2020.

The campaign to restore the Union Chain Bridge linking Northumberland and Berwickshire has been backed by Secretary of State for Scotland Alastair Carmichael.

But Mr Carmichael’s Scottish Office does not have a budget to support the restoration of the bridge at Horncliffe.

Former MP and MSP John Home Robertson, from Paxton, who is also a The Friends of the Union Chain Bridge member, wrote to Mr Carmichael explaining the urgent need for major renovation of the bridge, built in 1820.

Nearly 200 years of weather and traffic have taken their toll on the world’s first large-scale suspension bridge, designed by Captain Samuel Brown RN. Northumberland County Council and Scottish Borders Council are seeking support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other agencies towards the £4million estimated cost.

Mr Carmichael was clear that the Scottish Office does not have a budget to support such project, but in his response to Mr Home Robertson, he said: “I understand there are other options for securing funding, not lease through application to Historic Scotland, English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

“I would be happy to support any funding applications you submit as well as exploring any possible alternative solutions and support that the Scottish Office can provide.

“The Union Chain Bridge clearly holds great historical importance and I completely support the efforts you are making to provide funding for the urgent renovation that is needed. I sincerely hope that the safety of this national treasure can be ensured.”

John Home Robertson said: “This part of Scotland voted overwhelmingly for the Union of the UK in the recent referendum. The restoration of the Union Bridge for its bicentenary in 2020 would be an excellent way to reassert and renew the friendly link with our neighbours in the north of England.

“The original motto set at both ends of the bridge proclaims that unity is strength, and this is a good time to reinforce our Union Bridge.

“I’m delighted to have this helpful response from the Secretary of State”.

The newly-formed Union Chain Bridge Friends organisation is campaigning for the restoration of the bridge in time for its bicentenary in 2020.