Scotland

Details of £10bn Chinese deal published

Nicola Sturgeon signing deal Image copyright Sinofortone
Image caption The agreement was signed at the first minister's Bute House residence in Edinburgh last month

The Scottish government has published an investment agreement potentially worth £10bn that was signed by Nicola Sturgeon and a Chinese consortium.

The deal was signed on 21 March - before the election purdah period - but was not officially announced by the Scottish government.

Opposition parties had claimed it was being "kept quiet" and called for full details to be made public.

The document was posted on the Scottish government website on Sunday evening.

Scottish Labour has called for a guarantee that any future contracts with Chinese firms will not bind Scotland to using Chinese steel for infrastructure projects.

And writing in the National newspaper on Monday, SNP MP George Kerevan warned about what he described as the "new Chinese imperialism" and accused UK Chancellor George Osborne of making a "Faustian pact with Chinese state capitalism" at the expense of the UK steel industry.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed by the Scottish government and representatives of SinoFortone and China Railway No. 3 Engineering Group (CR3) at Ms Sturgeon's official Bute House residence in Edinburgh.

SinoFortone is already involved with projects including the new London Paramount theme park development, the proposed Crossrail 2 rail line running through London into Hertfordshire, and new metro systems in Abu Dhabi and Kuwait.

And it is to invest £2bn in two eco-parks in north and south west Wales which will see two biomass power stations built on Anglesay in Port Talbot.

'Develop a relationship'

The memorandum stated that its purpose was to set out the "basis and general principles for initial discussions" on how SinoFortone and CR3 can "develop and fund major infrastructure projects in Scotland."

It added: "In so far as possible, the parties will be mutually supportive of each other in working towards this purpose and seek to develop a relationship that could lead to a program of investment into Scottish priority projects and infrastructure to the value of £10bn."

The document said preliminary talks had suggested Scotland could benefit in areas such as affordable housing, communities, clean energy, industry and business parks and transportation infrastructure.

It also stated that the memorandum "is intended as a statement of intent and a platform to share confidential information, not a binding legal agreement" and that it did not represent a commitment of funds.

And it said that "each party may make public reference to the existence of this MOU as it thinks relevant and appropriate, provided that each party will obtain the approval of the other parties for the contents of any press release relating to the terms of this MOU prior to issue of such press release."

Details of the agreement had been published on the SinoFortone website on 21 March.

Image copyright London Resort Company Holdings
Image caption SinoFortone is already involved with plans for the Hollywood-inspired London Paramount theme park

A spokeswoman for Ms Sturgeon said: "The first minister is more than happy for this information to be in the public domain which shows that once again opposition parties are ignoring reality to make up their own version of events - a move which has backfired badly.

"As the memorandum of understanding which the Scottish government has published clearly shows, it is an agreement to have preliminary talks about potential opportunities for investment to support jobs and economic growth in Scotland.

"It does not relate to any specific projects or specific amount of investment, is not a binding legal agreement and does not commit any public funds."

Responding to the MOU's publication, Labour said the Scottish government had issued press releases on beavers and dog fouling in the period between the signing of the deal and purdah, but "made no mention of a potential agreement worth £10bn".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Labour has called for guarantees that Scotland will not be obliged to use Chinese steel in any future infrastructure projects

Labour's Jackie Baillie said: "The SNP pat themselves on the back for things they aren't even involved in, so for Nicola Sturgeon to keep quiet about a deal she signed potentially worth £10bn with a Chinese consortium is quite extraordinary.

"At a time of crisis for British steel the SNP must give a guarantee that, if they are returned to government, any future contract with Chinese firms will not bind Scotland to using Chinese steel for Scottish infrastructure projects.

"The arrogant approach of the SNP government in this case has been unacceptable. People in Scotland deserve a bit more respect from ministers."

Speaking before the document was published, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said it was "extraordinary that a deal of such magnitude has been kept private by the SNP".

And John Lamont of the Scottish Conservatives claimed SNP ministers had "simply tried to hide this away until after the election".

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