NICOLA Sturgeon has been urged to double-check the businesses she meets on an official visit to China next month after her last Far East venture turned out to be a sham.

The First Minister was also pressed to raise human rights on the forthcoming trip to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, when she is is due to promote economic, cultural and educational links. It will be her first trip to China since 2015.

Economy Secretary Keith Brown was forced to apologise to MSPs last year after it emerged the SNP Government had been suckered by a bogus £10bn investment deal with China.

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The First Minister had signed a memorandum of understanding with the firm SinoFortone and the state-backed Chinese Railway No3 Engineering Group (CR3).

Sinfortone said it would invest up to £10bn in projects in Scotland, but a series of promised deals across the UK failed to materialise, and its sole UK asset turned out to be a pub.

It also emerged that CR3’s parent company had been blacklisted by Norway’s sovereign wealth fund over corruption concerns and been accused of human rights abuses in Africa.

Dubbed “the Scottish shambles” in China, the deal collapsed in August 2016.

Businessman Sir Richard Heygate, who helped present the deal to the Scottish Government, later admitted SinoFortone’s investment promises had proven to be “all b******s”.

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At FMQs, Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie reminded Ms Sturgeon of the fiasco and said Mr Brown had promised a new human rights assessment to prevent a repeat.

He said: “Scottish Enterprise will have set up a number of signings with companies for the First Minister’s visit to China.

“Can she confirm that all those companies have had a human rights check?”

Ms Sturgeon said: “I will speak up for human rights in China, as I did on my previous visit. I bow to nobody in my determination to play my part in promoting human rights internationally. “I hope that that is an issue that would unite everyone across this chamber.

“I will also speak up for Scottish companies, jobs, tourism and food and drink when I am in China, as I do when I am in any other part of the world, because my job is to promote Scotland, the Scottish economy and Scottish jobs.

“That is probably one of the differences between me and Willie Rennie.”

Earlier, Tory leader Ruth Davidson raised concerns that funding for closing the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils was lying unused because of a teacher shortage, being used to plug budget gaps, or going on questionable purchases such as astroturf.

She asked Ms Sturgeon for “an assurance that taxpayers' money intended to help poorer pupils will do just that and stop being siphoned off elsewhere".

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Ms Sturgeon said it was for headteachers, not politicians or councils, to decide how to spend their share of the annual £120m pupil equity fund to help deprived youngsters.

She said: “I was at a school recently at which attendance had been an issue, so the school took some pupils and parents on a weekend trip.

“Attendance has improved in some of the most deprived communities because of that. “Those are the things that headteachers say help to raise attainment in their schools.

“Ruth Davidson said that concerns about the pupil equity fund are widespread across the sector. Frankly, she needs to get out more and visit a few more schools.”

Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie warned a plan to cut traffic pollution in Glasgow city centre through Scotland’s first low emission zone (LEZ) was "half-hearted".

He said the plan put forward by SNP-run Glasgow City Council, which would see a crack down on polluting buses next year and cars by 2022, was a “no ambition zone”.

Figures from the government’s own environment agency showed it would not eliminate illegal air pollution on the timescale set out, he said.

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Urging her to challenge Transport Scotland’s “cautious business-as-usual attitude”, he said: “We've got a responsibility to make sure that this first zone in the country doesn't set a precedent for weak action because dozens of other communities need a sense of urgency.”

Ms Sturgeon said the proposals would see one of the "most challenging, all encompassing LEZs in Europe", and the long lead-in time for cars was “based on pragmatism”.

She praised Glasgow for “getting ahead of the game”, but said discussions would continue.