A ROW has broken out after the SNP said opposition parties should be "ashamed" of their role in the collapse of a £10bn agreement deal between Nicola Sturgeon and China.

Two Chinese firms have cancelled a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Scottish Government, which caused controversy and criticism at Holyrood after it emerged that one of the parties was owned by a state-owned construction giant blacklisted by Norway's oil fund due to corruption fears and implicated in serious human rights abuses in Africa.

According to The Sunday Times, the Chinese pulled the plug in August due to the outcry, with a senior insider close to the talks saying the fallout was received "very badly" in the Far East where the episode has become known as "the Scottish shambles".

Read more: Alex Neil - Brexit can transform Scotland into a more progressive country

A spokesman for Keith Brown, the economy secretary, claimed a "climate of hostility" had scuppered the deal and suggested the opposition had put billions at risk in a bid to secure "cheap headlines" in the press.

Opponents hit back, pointing out that respected global charities including Amnesty International and Transparency International had also voiced concerns over the MoU, which was agreed, and apparently ended, without any announcement by ministers.

Willie Rennie, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, called on the Scottish Government to make an urgent statement to Holyrood about the deal. He said: "They must explain what lessons they have learned from this sorry episode and what new arrangements will be put in place to attract ethical investment for Scotland.

"If anyone should be ashamed it should be the Scottish Government. Throughout this whole process groups such as Amnesty International and Transparency International expressed concerns but the SNP covered their ears and ploughed on regardless. The showed a casual disregard for human rights."

Ms Sturgeon signed the agreement in March, which stated that the Scottish Government would work with China Railway No. 3 Engineering Group Co. Ltd (CR3) and SinoFortone with a view to developing a relationship "that could lead to a program of investment into Scottish priority projects and infrastructure to the value of £10bn." Areas of possible cooperation included housing, energy and transport.

Read more: Alex Neil - Brexit can transform Scotland into a more progressive country

However, concerns emerged after The Herald revealed that Norway's oil fund had ditched a £26 million stake in the China Railway Group (CRG), CR3's parent company, after an ethics council concluded in 2014 that there was an "unacceptable risk that the company is involved in gross corruption".

Pressure mounted after it emerged that CRG subsidiaries had been accused by Amnesty International of participating in illegal forced evictions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with families removed from their homes and dumped into appalling conditions to make way for mining industry infrastructure.

Anti-corruption campaign group Transparency International intervened, warning of risks of doing business with firms that had a poor reputation, while Amnesty International wrote to the First Minister in May to raise serious concerns about the agreement and said: "human rights must not be traded for the sake of economic gain."

Mr Brown's spokesman said: "We were aware that Sinofortone felt they could not move ahead with investment in the climate of hostility they faced from other parties... We are sorry if the partners consider the MoU to be cancelled and we remain open to working together on projects in the future."

Read more: Alex Neil - Brexit can transform Scotland into a more progressive country

He added: "The opposition should be ashamed of themselves if their actions, in search of cheap headlines, have put up to £10bn of investment at risk. The Scottish Government will do everything we can to make sure that Scotland is open for business. It would be helpful if opposition parties joined us in making the case for Scotland, rather than doing Scotland down."

The spokesman did not respond when asked whether the Government believed Amnesty International should also be ashamed of its actions or why the cancellation of the deal was not announced publicly.