Nicola Sturgeon aware of Chinese firms' 'detailed plans'

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of 'misleading the public' over a £10 billion investment deal with China after it was claimed she had backed specific schemes - despite having denied there were any 'proposals on the table.'

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: PA

Sir Richard Heygate, the UK representative of the consortium with signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Scottish ministers, claimed that three specific projects were discussed and construction was due to start within a year.

Ms Sturgeon had insisted “there are no actual proposals on the table at this stage” as she came under pressure over the deal this week.

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Ministers were already facing criticism for keeping the plans “secret” after it emerged the deal was signed two weeks ago but only came to light when were published by the Chinese Government. It also emerged that China Railway Group Limited (CRG), the owner of CR3 which is part of the deal, has been hit by corruption allegations in its homeland which resulted in Norway’s oil fund blacklisting the firm.

Sir Richard Heygate told BBC Radio Scotland today that discussions have been ongoing between the SNP Government and the Chinese consortium and that construction is due to start within a year.

Three projects have already been identified. These include 5,000 homes in Falkirk, Edinburgh and East Ayrshire, as well as a biomass plant in East Ayrshire and an unspecified railway project. He added that Ms Sturgeon had been an “enthusiastic” backer of the plans.

“She was just absolutely positive right from the start,” he told Good Morning Scotland today.

“We presented a number of particular projects, as I said, clean energy, developing new industrial parks developing new infrastructure and she just went straight for the ones which are most important.”

These were the clean energy and housing schemes, he added.

Labour’s Public Services and Wealth Creation spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “Sir Richard Heygate’s interview lifts the lid on the SNP’s secret deal with China. The fact that discussions have been going on for a year without SNP Ministers providing any detail is extraordinary.

“On Wednesday Nicola Sturgeon said there were no proposals on the table, yet today the UK representative of the Chinese consortium has confirmed that at least three projects have been identified across the country. Nicola Sturgeon has simply not been telling the truth and that is unacceptable.

“Nicola Sturgeon has misled Scots on this deal.”

Ms Sturgeon signed a “memorandum of understanding” (MoU) last month with SinoFortone and China Railway No 3 Engineering Group (CR3) which could be worth up to £10 billion.

Speaking on the election campaign trail in Edinburgh on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘’What happened is we signed a memorandum of understanding to explore options for investment.

‘If we get to the stage where there are any proposals for investment, then full due diligence will be done at that stage. That’s how these things normally happen.

‘’There are no actual proposals on the table at this stage, and if that changes then those proposals will go through the normal process.’’|Future Scotland: Scotland’s tech sector, innovation and big ideas >>}