I understand that hyperbole is a politician's stock in trade, but the gush that has accompanied one of the many openings (followed by as many closings) of the Queensferry Crossing really does stick in the craw.
Kicking off a light show and a rumbling procession of vintage, modern and electric vehicles to celebrate opening number one of this long-awaited (by we unfortunates who have to drive between Fife and Edinburgh) structure, first minister Nicola Sturgeon admitted to being 'emotional', before declaring: 'This bridge will be one of the greatest bridges in the world – scrub that – this bridge is the greatest bridge in the world.' Fighting talk, indeed.
In addition, in Thursday's Times, Magnus Linklater proclaimed it 'a work of art,' while bridge project manager Mike Glover insisted it would last for 150 years (though in some reports he had already whittled this figure down to a mere 120 years – no matter, neither he nor we will be around).
Googling 'the greatest bridges in the world' reveals there are dozens which have been awarded the accolade, and some of them even deserve it. It would be interesting to know why Ms Sturgeon believes the Queensferry Crossing is the 'greatest bridge in the world.' I rather suspect that it has little to do with the bridge per se and rather more to do with the fact that it has been opened on her watch – perhaps she hopes a bit of its reflected glory will rub off, to compensate for her last few somewhat tarnished months.
So how might this 'greatest bridge' claim stack up? The Queensferry Crossing is a cable-stayed bridge and has a span of 650m (2,133ft), easily surpassed by the mighty Russky Bridge (also cable-stayed) in Vladivostock with its incredible 1,104m (3,622ft) span. So it's not the bridge with the biggest span. But, as Mr Linklater points out: 'Length isn't everything.'
But neither can it claim to be the tallest bridge. Its towers reach a respectable 207m (679ft). The breath-taking Millau Viaduct, which appears to float above the gorge valley of the River Tarn in southern France, has a tower height of 343 m (1,125ft). The viaduct's height above the water below is 270m (890ft), compared to the Queensferry Crossing of 55m (180ft). So, it's well and truly beat on those stats too. But, as Mr Linklater might have also said: Height isn't everything either.
So, perhaps it wins on romance. Certainly Mr Linklater waxes lyrical, writing of the evening sun catching the 'gossamer thread' of the cables, 'shining golden against the sky.' What about on a much more usual dreich day? No shimmering gossamer threads then, I fear. No, if it's romance you want, look across to its familiar neighbour, the inspiring rail bridge, which looks magnificent in all weathers and was a real feat of engineering in days when bridge building was infinitely more demanding and dangerous – and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
But why confine your admiration to Scottish bridges? What about London's magnificent Victorian Gothic landmark Tower Bridge, built in 1894? That's a really good-looking bridge, a great bridge, even. And it opens up. Sydney Harbour Bridge is another truly deserving of the honour of being styled 'iconic', a term which Ms Sturgeon has already been trying to purloin for the Queensferry Crossing – a tad too soon, I believe. Sydney Harbour Bridge is recognised across the world, the Queensferry Crossing may still struggle to be known outwith Fife.
If you're after drama, it doesn't cut it either – look at the Eshima Ohashi bridge in Japan, dubbed the 'rollercoaster' bridge, with its 6.1% gradient on one side, and 5.1% gradient on the other. This rigid-framed bridge has these incredible hold-your-breath slopes so that shipping can safely pass on Lake Nakaumi below. But it takes a brave motorist to negotiate it. The Queensferry Crossing will just take drivers of endless patience, if its predecessor is anything to go by.
And what about history? The Queensferry Crossing is all shiny and new. How could it possibly compete with Florence's medieval Ponte Vecchio, as much a destination for trade today as it was when it opened in 1345? Or the Bridge of Sighs, the 17th-century white limestone crossing between the New Prison and the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace in Venice. From that bridge, convicts had their last view of the world, while we drivers heading back to the Kingdom will merely have our last view (of the day) of Edinburgh. Or, staying in La Serenissima, the Rialto Bridge, the oldest bridge across Venice's Grand Canal. Will there be an Edinburgh equivalent of Shakespeare's Shylock who wonders: 'What news on the Crossing?' Unlikely.
Perhaps though, before long, it will figure in fiction, inspiring a Fife-noir series to rival 'The Bridge,' the Danish-Swedish thrillers set on the Oresund Bridge between Copenhagen and Malmo. Perhaps it will even, one day, achieve the fame of its sister bridge – the Forth (Rail) Bridge playing a prominent part in the memorable Hitchcock movie from 1935, based on John Buchan's 'The 39 Steps.'
And perhaps it will achieve some sort of longevity. But, even if it does clock up more than a century, this pales into insignificance compared with the oldest bridge in the world – the Pons Fabricius or Ponte dei Quattro Capi, which has spanned the Tiber in Rome since 62BC, the year after Cicero became consul, and which has been in continuous use ever since.
There are, indeed, some great bridges around the world. I have yet to be convinced that the Queensferry Crossing will ever be one of them.