First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, signed a memorandum of understanding committing a Chinese consortium to exploring with the Scottish Government possible infrastructural projects in Scotland n which they might collectively invest £10 Billion.
The First Minster had not made this understabding public until forced to do so – a matter of which much has been made.
All sorts of hinted conspiracy theories are in circulation as to why information on this deal this may have been withheld. The workaday reality is that the FM may well have been keeping it back for a planned election campaign coup.
Then news came last night that a company in the China Consortium is a subsidiary of the China Railway Group which was blacklisted by Norway after the Norwegian pension fund’s ethics council warned, in 2014, of an ‘unacceptable risk’ that the China Railway Group was implicated in what they described as ‘gross corruption’.
This appeared to be on the grounds of the probability that the company gained contracts to build railways and housing projects in China by bribing government officials.
From this morning’s press throughout the day, there has been much pious sucking of teeth for the cameras by the party leaders who oppose the SNP.
This is election politics in its most unthinking autopilot response mode.
China is an emerging and massive economy – a green field site for entrepreneurs and buccaneers within and without. It would be naive to imagine that major companies on the up and up in such circumstances are always getting there by pure and transparent means.
And the company involved in the China Consortium with which Ms Sturgeon signed the memorandum of understanding is not the China Railway Group but a subsidiary of it. What sort of a world damns children – human or corporate – for the improprieties of their parents, with no evidence that they are themselves guilty of the same?
Scotland is in urgent need of serious infrastructural development – without the money to pay for it. It is to the government’s and the FM’s credit that they have had the initiative to get as far as this memorandum of understanding.
It’s not as if here in Britain we have anything to get on our high horse about on the issue of corruption and bribes.
If there’s an honest deal in our arms industry, any of us would have reason to be surprised. It is improbable that this darkest of all industries does not routinely employ bribery.
The Thatcher Government survived the notorious and gigantic ‘Al Yamamah’ arms sale to Saudi Arabia signed off by Mrs Thatcher, with all of the major press, then and since, going public on the role her son Mark played as a ‘facilitator’ and the ‘commission’ he gained.
On 8th December 1994, The Independent, now no longer a print platform – said:’The deal, involving more than pounds 20bn in sales of Tornado fighter-bombers and naval vessels, is believed to have been the largest in history, and the money Mark Thatcher is said to have made from helping to broker it – allegedly pounds 12m – would explain his sudden rise to conspicuous wealth.’
No litigation was brought against any of the papers investigating this affair and making such claims as these.
In a recent interview, the First Minister has said you need pragmatism as well as principal to be successful in politics. This is the reality – and one often, in practice, hard to stomach for most of us.
Commentators like For Argyll have to exercise stable and objective judgement as to what level and variety of pragmatism is defensible to underpin success in the interests of the greater good – and what is not.
In this instance, our judgment is that the First Minister cannot fairly be backed against the wall on the understanding she has reached with this China Consortium – and really ought to be congratulated for it.