A HIGH-PROFILE Tory MSP has repaid hotel expenses after sharing a taxpayer-funded room with a male friend.
Scottish Conservative further education spokesman Ross Thomson, who is in a civil partnership, was told by party bosses to refund the £120 bill in case the overnight stay was misinterpreted.
Mr Thomson later hired the man, former Labour candidate Braden Davy, to work for him on the public payroll, turning down a request from Tory chief whip John Lamont to abandon the planned appointment.
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Mr Thomson’s office manager, James McMordie, then this week resigned with immediate effect after a 'breakdown in relations' with the North East Scotland MSP. It is understood the decision to hire Mr Davy was a factor in his departure.
The MSP, 29, shot to prominence as a Leave campaigner immediately after being elected in May, despite party leader Ruth Davidson being a champion for Remain.
His insistence on taking on Mr Davy against the wishes of senior party bosses is understood to have led to a deterioration in relations with Mr Lamont in particular, one of the most influential and long-serving Tories at Holyrood.
One party member said: "There is a feeling that Braden Davy was a high profile Labour figure and is not on our side, so this appointment was inappropriate. Ross is very ambitious, but there's a feeling he has demonstrated immaturity and inexperience since being elected.
"Having to pay back expenses has not helped matters and he's beginning to be seen as a bit of a renegade and a problem. It's a shame because Ross has great potential but he he's already getting on the wrong side of the bigwigs and that won't do him any favours."
It is understood the pair shared the hotel room after Mr Davy inadvertently missed a train home. They had arranged a meeting to discuss possible employment opportunities, which was followed by a drinking session in Edinburgh with friends.
The pair became friends after working with each other on the Better Together campaign and later, on the Scottish Vote Leave campaign. Mr Thomson was one of the few MSPs to back a Brexit vote with Mr Davy assistant director of the official leave campaign north of the border.
There is no suggestion of anything beyond a working relationship and friendship between the pair. However, it is believed Mr Lamont insisted the MSP repay the hotel expenses which he had claimed from the parliament, a request he complied with.
The hotel room had been booked in advance by Mr Thomson, over the summer. Scottish Parliament sources confirmed that expense claims repaid by MSPs before publication would not appear in records which are subsequently released to the public.
Mr McMordie is understood to have resigned on Monday with immediate effect, despite previously being viewed as "an extremely close confidante and trusted ally" to Mr Thomson.
Mr McMordie is a former Tory candidate, having stood for the party in the 2015 general election in Edinburgh East but coming behind the SNP and Labour. In the same election, Mr Davy stood against Alex Salmond for Labour in the Gordon constituency but came fourth. He previously worked as a staffer to the ex-Labour MP Anne Begg.
Mr Thomson did not respond to phone calls from The Herald. A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: "We do not comment on internal matters."