QUESTIONS over Nicola Sturgeon's controversial £10 billion deal with two Chinese companies have been stonewalled by SNP ministers, in a move that opposition MSPs said "defies belief".

Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, had issued a string of parliamentary questions over a memorandum of understanding with two firms, one of which is owned by a Chinese state-owned company that has been implicated in human rights abuses and corruption.

Some of the queries asked for only basic details, such as information about when previous meetings with the companies took place. Mr Rennie also formally asked about what experts were consulted before the agreement was signed, and whether the Scottish Government had contacted the Norwegian oil fund following reports that China Railway No. 3 Engineering Group’s (CR3) parent company was blacklisted for investment as a result of the risk of corruption.

CR3 is one of the companies to agree the deal, which commits the parties to working together to develop a relationship that could lead to a program of investment into Scottish infrastructure to the value of £10bn.

Answers were due on Thursday, although Mr Rennie has received only 'holding' responses from the Scottish Government to some questions , offering no reply other than promising a substantive answer at a later date, and no response at all to others.

The Scottish Government has also so far failed to answer Freedom of Information requests from journalists requesting more details, breaching a 20-working day legal limit to respond.

Mr Rennie said: "It beggars belief that the SNP Government still cannot answer basic questions on an agreement that was signed with CR3 more than two months ago. Freedom of Information requests have been delayed. Now it seems ministers are trying to kick straightforward parliamentary questions into the long grass.

"We all want to see Scotland grow and investment from other parts of the world will help get more people into work. But getting into bed with companies tied to human rights abuses and corruption allegations is not the way to build our economy. The longer that the SNP remain silent over the China deal, the more it appears they have something to hide. If there is nothing to see here then there will be no harm in giving people the information they have requested."