Ian Swanson: What will we name the new Forth bridge?

IT IS Scotland's biggest construction project in decades, it will take five years to build and cost £2 billion. The new Forth bridge is expected to become an iconic structure, standing alongside the existing road crossing and the 120-year-old rail bridge.

Over the past couple of years the project has inspired massive interest and widespread media coverage, but one thing nobody yet knows is what it is going to be called.

So far it has only been known as the Forth Replacement Crossing, an official name for the work-in-progress, which will itself need to be replaced before long.

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It may seem like a minor detail in the grander scheme of things, but whatever title is chosen will come to represent a major part of the local identity.

If the experience of the Clackmannanshire Bridge further up the Forth is anything to judge by, an intriguing battle may be looming between the councils, community groups and residents on the opposite banks of the estuary, in Fife and Edinburgh.

Handled wrongly, it could turn into another headache for the project, which has already been at the centre of much heated debate.

The options are many and varied. Should it, for example, follow the lead of the Liverpool John Lennon Airport and take its name from an iconic Scottish or Edinburgh figure? That view is steadily gathering support.

Fife Council already has a track record of celebrating its modern "heroes" in place names, having created (Jack) Vettriano Vale, in Leven, and Ian Rankin Court in Cardenden.

Or perhaps a more basic name would be more fitting for the engineering feat?

Ideas already put forward informally include naming the crossing after the 11th century Queen Margaret – later Saint Margaret – who regularly used the route when she travelled between Dunfermline and Edinburgh, or simply calling it the Queensferry Bridge in recognition of the towns of the north and south sides of the Forth.

That could appease people on both sides of the Forth, but may not suit the scale of a bridge that will link two major regions, not merely a pair of sleepy towns.

Another option could be the Stevenson Bridge – not in honour of transport minister Stewart Stevenson, but after Robert Louis Stevenson, whose book Kidnapped is largely set in the Hawes Inn, sitting under the rail bridge.

The existence of the Scott Monument and Waverley Station probably rule out the prospect of the Sir Walter Scott Bridge, although it is an idea which is bound to find supporters.

Fifers may suggest the Adam Smith Bridge, a name with the advantage of connections in both the Capital and the ancient kingdom.

One enthusiastic supporter of the Stevenson idea is Ian Nimmo, a former editor of the Evening News and a member of the RLS Society in Edinburgh.

"If it were to be called the Stevenson Bridge, that could bring in his family who built lighthouses in some of the most hostile waters," he says.

"The Forth too is a hostile crossing, you only have to look at the number of people who lost their lives building the Forth Bridge."

Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MSP Margaret Smith sees several potential options.

"I was rather hoping they would call it a tunnel," she quips, before adding: "There are significant historical connections in the area – Robert Louis Stevenson and the Hawes Inn, for example.

"And there are all sorts of different estates locally – the Dundas estate, Hopetoun estate – but maybe Queensferry Bridge is as good as anything else."

Frank Hay of the Queensferry Historical Society agrees that the Queensferry name could be most suitable.

"It should have a name, but there's not one that leaps out," he muses. "Maybe Queensferry Bridge sums it up."

There was controversy in 2008 over the naming of the new 120m road bridge at Kincardine. It had been referred to as the "upper Forth crossing" until the government announced it would be called the Clackmannanshire Bridge after thousands of people backed a campaign by Clackmannanshire council.

Fife had proposed it be known as the Kingdom Bridge, and may re-ignite that campaign this time around.

The Kingdom already likes to lay claim to the rail bridge, with the local authority using it as its logo.

There is also a popular movement for the construction work, such as caravans, cabins and equipment, to be based north of the Forth, as it was when the first road bridge was constructed.

Phil Wheeler, an Edinburgh councillor and convener of the Forth Estuary Transport Authority, said: "There's no rush to put a label on the new bridge until it's approaching completion.

"It could be the Queensferry Bridge linking the two towns of Queensferry and it does cover the crossing used by St Margaret – so it could be the Queen's Bridge or St Margaret's Bridge. These are all possibilities."

A Scottish Government spokesman said the priority was to ensure the bridge was built on time and on budget, but ministers were open-minded on the question of the name.

After all the controversy over the decision to build a new bridge and the choice of its route, feelings surrounding the new crossing are still running high.

Doug Tait, vice-chairman of Bridge Replacement Interests Group South (BRIGS), which represents local residents, says now is the time to pause for reflection.

"I could give you a good number of names, but I'm not sure they would fit the bill," he says.

"This would be the wrong time to have a competition or anything because the response would be a negative one and this should be a positive thing."