Scottish businesses which fear they have contravened new bribery laws should head off criminal proceedings by "bringing out their skeletons" and "self-reporting" themselves, a leading corporate lawyer has claimed.

Valerie Surgenor, compliance and regulatory partner at MacRoberts, said Scots companies in oil and gas, mining, construction and pharmaceutical sectors were the most prone to "naughty practices", contraventions of the Bribery Act, enacted in the UK in 2010 following pressure from the OECD.

Last July the Crown Office announced a self-reporting initiative, whereby businesses which disclose inadvertent or deliberate breaches of the act were offered more lenient civil penalties and avoidance of a criminal record under the civil recovery unit (CRU).

Surgenor, who said at least two bribery investigations were in train in Scotland, warned that defeated rivals in the public procurement competitions were a likely source of investigations under the act. She added that pro-active self-reporting could be "turned into a positive" for a company as it showed transparency.

"The main advantage of self-reporting is that it puts you in control of the process. If a company makes their own investigation they can hire their own forensic accountant. When the case goes to the Serious Organised Crime Division you have to comply with their procedures, so you want to have hired someone robust."

Surgenor said corporate bribery often takes the form of excessive corporate hospitality in advance of a contract signing, but also cited the first successful prosecution under the act last year, a case involving cash payments to a local magistrate in England.

"My discussions with the serious crime division of the Crown Office suggest there will be more prosecutions in Scotland."