THE Scottish Government has strongly denied any link between the First Minister’s meeting with a Chinese business and the decision to call in a planning application for the Cockenzie power plant.

Inch Cape Offshore Limited (ICOL), which is owned by Red Rock – a subsidiary of China’s State Development and Investment Corporation (SCDI) – had applied to East Lothian council to build a power substation on the site of the old Cockenzie power plant to allow them to bring offshore energy from a planned wind farm into the National Grid.

The First Minister met with SCDI on Tuesday, a day after the Government told the council they were taking control of the process.

What was unusual about the Government calling in the application at this point was that East Lothian council were still in the process of making a decision.

Ministers told the authority that the decision was “of national importance”. Locals weren’t happy.

The Inch Cape plan means the substation will be empty, controlled remotely, with no new jobs created.

Prestonpans Community Council had hoped to turn the site into a port for cruise ships.

The Labour MSP for East Lothian, Iain Gray, was furious: “This looks like another public relations mess the First Minister has got herself into trying to engage with Chinese business.

“We now know the Nicola Sturgeon met the State Development and Investment Corporation the same week her Planning Minister removed a planning application by their subsidiary Red Rock from East Lothian Council so the Government could decide itself.

“Whether this sequence of events was intentional or coincidental, the SNP Government should not be overstepping the boundaries of local democracy and centralising decisions ahead of democratically elected local councillors.”

LibDem MSP Liam Macarthur said: “It’s important that the Scottish Government avoid giving the impression that they are kowtowing to Chinese special interests at the expense of local people in East Lothian.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government strongly denied a link between Sturgeon’s meeting and the decision taken by ministers, saying the timing didn’t work.

“The development is in an area covered by the National Planning Framework and raised issues that require to be considered by ministers.

“The decision was taken by the Planning Minister, Kevin Stewart, on April 4 and actioned by planning officials on April 9. The First Minister is not meeting with Red Rock Power whilst in China.

“As set out in the First Minister’s China blog, the FM met with the State Development Investment Corporation during her visit to China and the issue was not discussed.”

Ian Johnson, ICOL project manager, added: “We hope to continue to engage with the local community and East Lothian Council, to listen to any feedback and concerns they may have”.