Scotland politics

Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland will seek more Chinese investment

Nicola Sturgeon signing deal Image copyright Sinofortone
Image caption The agreement was signed in March but only became public knowledge when it was reported by the media the following month

The Scottish government will continue to seek investment from China despite the collapse of a possible £10bn deal.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with two state-backed Chinese firms.

But the companies later told the Scottish government by email that they were withdrawing from the deal.

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that her government remained committed to pursuing all investment opportunities.

Opposition politicians claimed the collapse of the agreement - which only became public knowledge when it was reported by the media in April - had been an "embarrassing saga" for her.

Human rights record

And Conservative leader Ruth Davidson accused the first minister of blaming everyone else for the collapse of the agreement, which had been signed by SinoFortone and China Railway No3 Engineering Group (CR3).

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie also attacked the first minister, saying that "surely she is responsible for the collapse of this and nobody else".

The MoU had committed the Scottish government and the two Chinese companies to exploring opportunities for investment.

But when details of the agreement became public, it also emerged that Amnesty International had raised concerns over the human rights record of CR3, with the company being blacklisted by Norway's oil fund.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ruth Davidson said the collapse of the agreement had been an "embarrassment" for Scotland

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that the government was made aware in August "that due to the political climate, our partners in that memorandum of understanding felt that they could not proceed at this time".

She added: "We did not take that as a cancellation of the memorandum of understanding, we remained committed then as we remain committed now to pursuing all opportunities for investment."

The first minister said the government will "continue to try to attract investment from China, from other countries, from anywhere that wants to invest in Scotland in reasonable investment proposals".

'Double standards'

She also criticised rival party leaders, saying: "We have an opposition that demanded the cancellation of this memorandum of understanding, we have an opposition that had a hysterical over-the-top reaction to this memorandum of understanding.

"So, while I take responsibility for learning lessons, I really do think the opposition also have to reflect on their behaviour, which led to a political climate in which these partners felt they couldn't proceed."

And Ms Sturgeon said it was "double standards on stilts" for Ms Davidson to raise the China deal with her when the Conservative government at Westminster has failed to answer questions on a reported deal with car manufacturers Nissan over Brexit.

Ms Davidson responded by saying: "I cannot believe the first minister is persisting to come to the chamber today to say that the Chinese Communist Party pulled the plug on this deal because they heard the Scottish Liberal Democrats roar.

"This entire saga is embarrassing. It is embarrassing for the government and I think it is embarrassing for our country.

"Because if we spell out what was at stake here - or what we're now told was at stake here because it was hidden at the time - it was £10bn that could have been invested in housing and transport, and that's exactly the kind of investment you would expect the Scottish government to pull out all the stops to secure."