Brian Monteith: Crazy names are a bridge too far

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As we hurtle towards 2013 and are bombarded with the great events of the past year (spoilt for choice for once), reminisce about some of the sad departures (such as Gerry Anderson this week) and speculate about what the New Year may bring (will a Bond film get an Oscar for once?).

I thought I would go off on a tangent and wonder about a trivial matter that is of no consequence – but has all the potential to annoy a great many people in a couple of years’ time.

I write, not about the confounded independence referendum (thank goodness you murmur) nor any other obvious political project (hooray!) – although politics must play its part – but about the naming of the new Forth road bridge that is to open in 2016.

What? The name of a bridge? Has Monteith overdone the Christmas sherry, you might say?

The topic came to me when I read of the competition that the Scottish Government is holding to find the name for the bridge – and the bizarre if not quite ridiculous names that are being suggested. No doubt many of the entries are intended as a laugh or are meant to wind people up – but honestly, the Rab C Nesbridge? And that’s not the worst!

The Lorraine Kelly Bridge? Really? The Shortbread Bridge – crumbs. The Bagpipe Bridge would just be blown away – and the Haggis Highway? Why not go the whole hog with the Deep Fried Haggis Highway? Or, The Paw Broon Crossing? That should be over the River Tay. The Midge Bridge – at least it rhymes – would just be a pain in the behind. But the worst has to be the Chuck Norris? Somebody was on the Bucky! Somebody suggested the Irn-Bru Bridge, presumably because it will be made in Scotland from girders – but clearly forgot the steel is coming from Asia!

Bridges are often called after the river or gorge that they cross – hence previous bridges at Queensferry have not been named after the points they land on Fife or the Lothians but simply the Forth Bridge or, later, the Forth Road Bridge. Plain and simple, no argument or controversy and everybody could get along fine with it.

There is, however a problem in naming the new bridge, for its immediate neighbours will remain and thus the new bridge will need to have some distinctive moniker so we can tell the difference – hence the competition.

It should also be remembered that there are two other significant bridges over the River Forth known as the Kincardine Bridge and Clackmannanshire Bridge and these help only add to the confusion – and fun! For instance, the new bridge could quite legitimately be called The Fifth Bridge, The Fifth Forth Bridge – or the Fourth Forth Road Bridge? Needless to say these may become popular nicknames for quirky types seeking to be different and quaint but they will be dangerous tongue-twisters for the AA or Newsdrive programme announcers, never mind the Tom Tom instructions.

So it looks like the Forth Replacement Crossing – as it is currently known – is more likely to be named after a famous person or – as is often the customer in other lands – an important moment in national history.

Thus, there have already been a number of submissions suggesting the Queen Elizabeth Golden Jubilee Bridge and even the Duchess of Cambridge Bridge. The first is far too cumbersome and the second just ignorant, for Kate is actually the Duchess of Strathearn in Scotland – and the bridge is nowhere near Forfar!

If it were to be named the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge nationalists would no doubt object (so that’s never going to be the name) and anyway, there’s already one of these on the Thames, at Dartford. Even calling it the plain and simple Queen Elizabeth Bridge means copying the name of an existing bridge at Windsor. So using Her Majesty’s name looks unlikely.

We could of course go down the road (sorry!) of naming it the Robert the Bruce Bridge or William Wallace Bridge, and predictably these have already been suggested – but really, is that how introverted we have become, wanting medieval historical figures for our modern structures some 700 or more years later? Can we not bear to look forwards or consider Scots that have been world-famous engineers?

It would be just as barmy to commemorate the anniversary of Bruce’s seminal military victory by calling the edifice The Battle of Bannockburn Bridge or how about that other Scottish victory with Wallace at the helm – giving us the Battle of Stirling Bridge Bridge? Either would be just plain daft – so let’s leave old historical figures with no direct connection with the crossing or building bridges behind.

We could go for that great Scottish bridge builder Thomas Telford – known as the Colossus of Roads – but there’s now an English town called Telford, so building a Telford Bridge on the Forth makes no sense too!

So, there’s going to be one winner – the Alex Salmond Bridge. Like the First Minister it will be big and cost us a great deal of money. Building bridges by separating nations? If Alex pulls that off he will deserve it – but for me it’s a bridge too far.