A company set up to help MSPs understand the private sector and the importance of wealth creation has been bailed out by the taxpayer.

The Scottish Parliament Business Exchange (SPBE), which organises place­ments for MSPs, has received a £30,000 handout from the public purse.

The SPBE was set up in 2001 as an independent charitable firm, to promote understanding between business and Holyrood.

It is funded by membership fees from its corporate members, which include BP, Scottish & Newcastle and Pfizer, as well as receiving help from the Parliament.

However, the body was marred by well-documented rows about whether it was offering lobbyists preferential access to MSPs.

The Exchange was also criticised after it emerged that an MSP who accepted a placement with a pharmaceutical company had to sign a confidentiality agreement.

MSPs believed the Exchange had turned the corner when businessman Arthur McIvor was appointed chief executive, but the firm has had ­financial problems.

A paper considered by the Parliament’s corporate body, which runs Holyrood, noted that the Exchange was in deficit: “The deficits have impacted heavily on the Exchange’s reserves, and there is a risk that renewed membership income cannot be guaranteed in the current climate. Cost cutting measures have resulted in a very-much reduced staff structure which is not capable of sustaining the level of activity required to support the increased membership.”

“The Board of the Exchange is confident that a one-off £30,000 cash injection would secure the future of its activities in line with the business plan.”

The Corporate Body has since approved the funding package, which is on top of another £20,000 it has already ploughed in this year.

McIvor denied the funding was a bailout: “The reason for the £30,000 is not a bailout for the past, but an investment in the future. We would not be able to deliver the business plan that was agreed by the Board without this funding.”

Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald said: “This organisation has patently failed to do its job. Setting up a body to advise MSPs on business, only for that body to be in deficit, makes us look silly. As for the £30,000 being approved, nothing surprises me anymore about the Corporate Body.”

John Wilson, an SNP MSP for Central Scotland, said: “The wealth creators are having quite a difficult time at the moment, as indicated by the fact the the Business Exchange is now having to go to the Parliament for a financial bailout. There are also issues surrounding the establishment of these bodies.”

A Scottish Parliament spokesperson said: “Over the past two years, the Exchange has been working hard to reduce its costs and to increase its activities and membership.

“The SPCB’s backing will enable the Exchange to continue its development.”