The role of an SNP donor in a controversial agreement between the Scottish Government and Chinese companies was played down, critics have claimed.
Opposition parties called for an investigation into the memorandum of understanding with investment groups SinoFortone and China Railway No. 3 Engineering Group (CR3), which set out the government’s support for more than £10 billion of Chinese investment in projects across the Central Belt.
The agreement, signed on 21 March by Nicola Sturgeon, went unannounced in Scotland and only came to light following media reports in China.
It has now emerged that Sir Brian Souter, a high-profile SNP supporter and donor, was discussed as a possible investor in a deal potentially worth over £10bn from an early stage.Yesterday the Scottish Government issued a strong defence of its actions as it published 70 pages of documents and correspondence relating to the memorandum.
Economy secretary Keith Brown warned opponents to be “wary about deterring potential investment”.
Mr Brown added: “These papers show how misguided opposition politicians have been and expose their assertions as unfounded.”
The documents reveal that, in discussions over the course of five months, the Chinese firms expressed interest in building 5,000 homes in central Scotland, as well as investing in developments at Loudoun Castle and on the site of the Grangemouth refinery.
The memorandum drew controversy after it emerged that the parent company of CR3 had been named in a 2013 Amnesty International report on hundreds of alleged forced evictions at a mining site in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It was also reported that the Norwegian state oil fund had abandoned a £26 million stake in the same company after it was warned of “unacceptable risk that the company is involved in gross corruption”.
Labour economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “We were told that SNP donor Brian Souter had no involvement in this deal yet these papers expose the fact that Scottish Government officials have been working with Mr Souter on this for months.
“This is a clear case of the SNP government simply not telling the Scottish people the truth.”
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie called for the memorandum to be “shredded”. He said: “The only people who seem to have no concerns about the China Railway Group are the SNP government.”