BEIS launches review of Scottish limited partnerships
The UK government's business department has launched a review of Scotland's law on limited partnerships.
The move follows claims that the law is being exploited as a money-laundering front for international organised crime.
The legal status of a limited liability partnership can be protected from scrutiny.
It also gives the partners the capacity to handle money that is not open to their English equivalents.
Concerns about criminal activity have been highlighted in reports published in The Herald newspaper.
The issue has also been raised by SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said it was calling for evidence at the start of its review, following "the sharp growth" of limited partnerships in Scotland.
It said their number had more than trebled since 2011, while there was a rise of less than 50% south of the border.
Last year, the Herald reported that shell firms advertised as "Scottish zero-tax offshore companies" were being marketed across the European Union.
It claimed at least a dozen agencies in Latvia, Ukraine and Russia were selling Scottish limited partnerships so people could secure bank accounts in countries such as Latvia and Cyprus.
In a statement, BEIS said it would gather evidence on the use of limited partnerships across the country, with a particular focus on those registered in Scotland.
It added: "The call for evidence launched today will help inform what further action, if any, is required to prevent limited partnerships being used as a front for unlawful activities such as money laundering and tax evasion, while also ensuring that the limited partnership business model continues to provide an efficient and flexible vehicle for legitimate business use."
Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: "It is right the UK government launches this call for evidence into the use of Scottish limited partnerships for possible criminal activity.
"Work by campaign groups and a series of media reports have highlighted growing concerns which require to be taken very seriously.
"I would urge businesses and organisations in Scotland to share their views. It is important we are able to gather as much information as we can."
The SNP's Treasury spokesman, Roger Mullin, welcomed the review.
He said: "This is a welcome U-turn from the UK government who have finally caved in to months of pressure from the SNP to carry out a review into the links between SLPs (Scottish limited partnerships) and criminal activity.
"Having previously rejected and voted against our calls for an investigation, this change of heart from the UK government is a step in the right direction, and a victory for the SNP and all those who have campaigned on this issue.
"We know that the links between SLPs and criminality pose a threat to combating organised crime. Understanding the scope, scale and extent of the criminal links with SLPs is the only way in which we can move forward to a practical and effective solution."
He added: "While we are pleased with today's development, it is merely the first step.
"The SNP will submit a series of new clauses to the upcoming Criminal Finance Bill, which will aim to hold the UK government to account on their commitment to shine light into this murky world, and deliver on their promise."