Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to “shred” a multibillion-pound investment partnership with a Chinese firm after it was linked to alleged human rights abuses.
The Herald newspaper revealed that China Railway Group Limited (CRG) and subsidiaries were named in a 2013 report by Amnesty International on mining and human rights in the Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Researchers for the charity were told that 300 households were forcibly evicted in 2011 when the Congo International Mining Corporation (CIMCO), a subsidiary of CRG, was given the rights to a site where they had been living since 2007.
According to the report, community members interviewed by Amnesty stated that they were taken from the site in trucks belonging to CIMCO and left at a new site with no housing or facilities.
The report states: “The allegation that company trucks were used to take the community from their homes to the bare site where they were left raises serious questions about whether the company provided assistance to state agents to carry out forced evictions.”
The charity said it had received no response from CIMCO in relation to the allegations.
In March, Ms Sturgeon signed a ‘’memorandum of understanding’’ worth up to £10 billion between the Scottish Government and SinoFortone and China Railway No 3 Engineering Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of CRG.
It has previously emerged that CRG has been hit by corruption allegations in its homeland which resulted in Norway’s oil fund blacklisting the firm.
Opposition parties renewed their criticism of the agreement, with Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie calling for it to be torn up.
He said: “The last thing that the First Minister did before the election started was sign a £10 billion deal with a business directly tied to allegations of corruption.
“The SNP have talked tough on tax avoidance and fair employment but they have rejected my calls to end government grants to companies who avoid tax or fail to pay the national living wage. Worse, they seem happy to get into bed with companies who have been blacklisted by the Norwegian oil fund and criticised by Amnesty International over their human rights record.
“This is not simply about Nicola Sturgeon’s gross error of judgement. This SNP deal is dragging Scotland’s reputation through the mud. The First Minister must shred this deal.”
Speaking on the campaign trail in Edinburgh, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “The more I hear about the deal the dodgier it sounds.
“There’s a complete lack of openness and transparency about this. We don’t know what this means for Scottish jobs, for Scottish businesses and we don’t know the details of some of the dark activities of the companies involved.
“I would urge the Scottish Government, as I did before, to show us the detail of this deal.”
A spokesman for the SNP said: “As we have made clear, the memorandum of understanding has already been published - it does not involve any agreed projects, no investment has been confirmed and no deals have been agreed.
“The SNP Government would only enter into agreements which met procurement rules and which benefited the Scottish economy.”
The spokesman added: “Any specific proposed projects would be subject to rigorous due diligence - but the stance that Willie Rennie and the Lib Dems have taken on this suggests they would close the door to potential multibillion-pound investment in Scotland.”