SENIOR Scottish Government officials held discussions with a potential Chinese investor after Nicola Sturgeon was warned about its links to alleged “human rights abuses”, the Deputy First Minister has revealed.
Opponents have urged the First Minister to suspend a joint-investment agreement she signed in March with China Railway No.3 (CR3) after allegations about its parent company emerged.
On May 19, Amnesty International sent Ms Sturgeon its report into “human rights abuses” by another China Railway Group (CRG) subsidiary in Congo and highlighted Norwegian government concerns about “gross corruption”.
Ms Sturgeon responded on June 12 confirming she was not aware of the allegations when she signed the memorandum of understanding (MoU), but said “both reports will be considered as part of the full due diligence that will take place” if any investments are confirmed.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said ministers have not held any discussions with CR3 since May 5.
However, he said senior officials spoke to a CR3 representative about “potential investment opportunities” on June 30 and were told the agreement could still “deliver benefits for Scotland” by a key mediator on July 29.
In a written answer to parliament, Mr Swinney said: “Scottish Government officials participated in a short teleconference with the chair of the Asia Scotland Institute, Roddy Gow, and Sir Richard Heygate of (CR3 partner) SinoFortone on June 30.
“SinoFortone highlighted their conversations with third parties about potential investment opportunities. No other issues were discussed and a minute of the teleconference was not taken.
Officials met Mr Gow on July 29. The meeting was attended by Scottish Government officials Richard Rollison, head of international trade and investment policy, and Mark Boyce, head of international relations.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “This is an staggering level of incompetence. Ministers asked few questions before signing a multi-billion pound agreement. It now looks like they scrabbled to cut ties when they were faced with the truth.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The MoU is about developing a working relationship to explore investment in Scotland. There is no deal or agreement and no commitment of public funds.”
An SNP spokesman said: “Willie Rennie seems desperate to chase investment away from Scotland.”