WORK has started on a link to transfer electricity between Scotland and England and Wales.

The construction of the sub-sea cable project will support 450 jobs as part of a wider investment programme to create thousands of jobs on both sides of the border.

The cable from Ayrshire to North Wales will increase the capacity to transfer electricity both ways and support the generation of renewables from wind farms, including Whitelee, near Glasgow.

It can deal with more than 2000 megawatts (MW), enough capacity to meet the electricity demands of more than four million homes each year.

The project, a joint venture between ScottishPower and the National Grid, is due to be in full operation by 2016, allowing electricity to flow north or south to meet varying levels of supply and demand.

The North Shore Converter station is being built at Hunterston, in Ayrshire, where 260 miles of cable will be laid to the southern end of the link at Connah's Quay in Wales.

Scottish Power said it was an innovative project which would be replicated around the world.

Ignacio Galan, chairman of ScottishPower and its parent company Iberdrola, said: "We are pleased to mark the start of construction on this hugely ambitious sub-sea electricity connection project.

"Our engineers are currently delivering some of the most important upgrades to the electricity network for more than half a century, with billions of pounds being invested and thousands of jobs being supported and created.

"We are planning a total investment in excess of £10billion by the end of the decade, with the majority on network upgrades and renewable energy projects.

"The Western Link project will act as a benchmark for similar developments around the world, as the deployment of this technology at such a large scale has never been undertaken before.

"This will help to increase energy security across the UK, and will benefit the people of Scotland, England and Wales."

Mr Galan was joined on a helicopter trip over Whitelee and Hunterston, by UK Energy Minister Michael Fallon, who said it would benefit consumers on both sides of the border.

He said: "The western link will enable English and Welsh consumers to access Scottish renewables and enable Scots to benefit from base load power when the wind doesn't blow.

"This world leading, billion pound under-sea connector shows the strength of our current integrated system."