Forget demands for a referendum or calls for independence: the ties linking Scotland to England are literally crumbling.
The Union Chain Bridge, Europe’s oldest surviving iron chain suspension bridge, has welcomed visitors to either Scotland or England since 1820 when it was built with the intention of strengthening ties between the two nations.
But it is now facing closure with both Northumberland and Scottish Borders Councils considering shutting the structure entirely, citing a hefty repair bill of £4.7million.
The bridge stretches nearly 130 metres over the River Tweed to connect the Scottish village of Fishwick to Horncliffe on the English bank and is widely considered an engineering miracle. Emblazoned on the bridge along with roses and thistles is the maxim ‘Vis Unita Fortior’ or United Strength is Stronger.
Yet officials responsible for the its maintenance have decreed that only one vehicle at a time can now cross on safety grounds.
Heather Robson, who runs a beekeeping company on English side of the Tweed, said: “One of my neighbours jokes that he doesn’t want the Latin inscription to be known in case nationalists come and stage a protest. But on one end of the bridge, someone has scrawled ‘Free Scotland’.”
She added: “It’s important nationally and internationally. and I’m surprised both councils in Scotland and England don’t do more to promote it.”
Tensions are mounting over which council is responsible for the fate of the bridge, which is set to be decided later this year. A spokesman for Scottish Borders Council admitted that closure remained a “possibility” but said Northumberland County Council was the “lead authority” for the plans.
He added: “We have a joint responsibility, and are working together to allow the refurbishment of the bridge to take place. Several organisations, including the Berwick Preservation Trust, are keen to secure its long-term future.”
A spokeswoman for Northumberland County Council said: “We appreciate the interest in this historic bridge and, with that in mind, we have undertaken an in-depth structural review of the bridge to ascertain its maintenance requirements. We are looking into various options and funding strategies with the Scottish Borders Council.”