Nicola Sturgeon has criticised opposition parties for risking investment in Scotland after a controversial £10 billion agreement between the Scottish Government and Chinese firms apparently collapsed.
The Scottish Conservatives have called for a new deal to be drawn up after state-backed companies SinoFortone and China Railway No3 Engineering Group (CR3) withdrew from the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) they signed with Ms Sturgeon in March in an email to the Scottish Government in August.
At a press briefing at Bute House in Edinburgh, the First Minister denied the deal had been “shrouded in secrecy” as she was pressed to explain why the development was not made public at the time.
She said: “There was nothing in my view to report about that. The aim of this MoU has always been to try to bring investment into Scotland, I think that’s a core part of my job.
“The MoU didn’t commit Scotland or the Scottish Government to any particular investment, it was an agreement to explore options.
“The reaction to that clearly made it less likely that that investment was going to transpire over the short to medium term and the email that has been referred to from the middle of August recognised that, that it was unlikely that investment was going to be able to proceed.
“We didn’t at that time interpret that email as cancelling the MoU, the commitment to explore options to take investment forward. In fact there has continued to be some engagement around that with SinoFortone.
“Obviously they interpreted it that way as we now know and I regret that.”
She added: “We will reflect on our experience of this situation but I do think, and I say this sincerely, I think the opposition have to reflect as well.
“Scrutiny and questions are entirely legitimate, of course they are, they are necessary in fact in any democracy, but we must be careful that we don’t create a climate that is generally inhospitable to inward investment and I think in this case that is what some of the reaction risked doing.”
Ms Sturgeon said she personally had not had further discussions with the consortium but added that the Scottish Government is continuing to engage with investors from China and beyond.
CR3’s parent firm has been singled out by Amnesty International for human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo and faced allegations of ‘’gross corruption’’ by the Norwegian Oil Fund.