MORE than 2,000 Scottish jobs are at risk over the crisis affecting Carillion, the UK's second-largest construction company.

The firm is struggling under £1.5 billion of debt and has a serious pension shortfall nearing £600m, raising fears about its future.

Carillion shares plunged on Friday following reports that lenders had rejected a proposed rescue plan for the business. Administrators are reported to have been put on standby as talks about the firm's future continue.

The company, which employs more than 43,000 workers worldwide, is part of the consortium building the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Road (AWPR). Projects in Scotland include the electrification of the central Scotland railway line through Shotts. It also won a contract last year to extend platforms at Edinburgh's Waverley Station. And Carillion also has several major contracts for managing public facilities, including West of Scotland Housing Association.

John Clark, of the union Unite Scotland, last night expressed his fears for the future of the company. He said: “This crisis is a major concern given the scale of the operations of Carrillion across Scotland and the UK. We’d have to say however that we’ve had grave concerns about the company for a some time. There’s been one example after another, in industrial relations terms and how business is dealt with, that has made us think that Carrillion wasn’t the steady ship it once was.”

He added: “One example is the Aberdeen By Pass roads contract. Out of the blue at Christmas payments made to workers over the festive season to help them keep their lodgings over the holidays were withdrawn. Today’s news makes you wonder if that happened because Carrillion could no longer write the cheques?”

Scottish Labour said it was important to know "just how exposed the Scottish Government and the public purse is if Carillion were to collapse".

However in a tweet, Scotland's business secretary, Keith Brown, indicated that work on the AWPR would continue regardless. It read: "Concerning news for workforce regarding financial issues at Carillion. However, work at AWPR covered by legal contingency and will continue.

A spokesman for the Scottish government said: "We continue to liaise with UK government colleagues to monitor and mitigate service risks associated with Carillion's financial situation.

"We stand ready to offer what assistance we can at this anxious time for the company's employees and their families."

Transport Scotland said that Carillion had "no intention of withdrawing" from the AWPR project, and that the consortium delivering the route "remains committed to completing it in accordance with the contract".

A spokesman added: "Carillion is one of three partners delivering the route. It would be inappropriate for us to comment on any individual contractor's internal financial governance."