The leader of the DUP has called for a bridge to connect Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Arlene Foster said there was “growing support” for building a connection in an address to an Orange parade in Fife.

“The connection between our two countries has always been special,” she said.

“What better way to cement that relationship than through a bridge?”

Ms Foster was speaking on the invitation of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland at an Orange Order parade on Saturday.

The DUP included proposals for a bridge or tunnel spanning the 22-mile distance between Scotland and Northern Ireland in its 2015 manifesto.

The Scottish government suggested in March that it would be willing to initiate discussions about the feasibility of a bridge, which supporters say would improve business links and boost life in communities in both islands.

The crossing between Northern Ireland and Scotland can be expensive and unreliable by boat, but some business leaders say money would be better spent improving transport infrastructure in Northern Ireland.

A spokesperson for the Scottish government said it was “keen to explore all potential opportunities for improving Scotland’s transport links” but that decisions, as with all proposed infrastructure development, would have to be “founded on a robust business case”.

An official estimate has not yet been made for the cost of a bridge, though it is believed one stretching from the Mull of Kintyre to County Antrim could cost tens of billions of pounds.

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Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians in Scotland had criticised Ms Foster for attending the Orange parade, arguing her time would be better spent in Northern Ireland, where there is no devolved government in place.

The leader described herself as “the last in a long line of unionist leaders coming along here” and said: “This is my culture actually, this is who I am.”