SCOTTISH Labour has been accused of hypocrisy after spearheading a crackdown on the lobbying industry at Holyrood while sub-letting its new Edinburgh office from a firm that charges clients to help influence decision-makers.

The party has struck a three-year deal with MacKay Hannah Ltd to rent part of its office at Crichton's Close near the Scottish Parliament as a base for its strategy unit.

Run by former Labour MSP and finance minister Angus MacKay, the company organises conferences and events it says can help businesses influence ­policymaking, inform policy development and connect with decision-makers.

The arrangement, which began in May, will bring MacKay Hannah £35,205, based on Labour paying an annual rent of £11,735 a year for the office in Crichton House, with the first three months rent-free. The Labour Party conducted a full property search for premises and paid full market rent for the space.

The deal comes amid a clamour to reform the lobbying system at Holyrood, where the drive for greater transparency has been led by the Lothians Labour MSP Neil Findlay.

Findlay, recently promoted to the post of shadow health secretary, last year proposed a member's bill that would create a statutory register of lobbyists.

Launching a consultation on the plan, which was backed by two-thirds of Labour MSPs and has now been adopted by the SNP Government, he said that while lobbying was an essential part of political life, it could be problematic. He said: "Perhaps some lobbyists enjoy greater influence than others as a result of having greater access to politicians and influence over policy and the decision-making process."

Although he did not define the term lobbyist - a task which is being left to the bill itself - he said the definition offered by the UK Public Affairs Council was helpful.

This states: "Lobbying means, in a professional capacity, attempting to influence, or advise those who wish to influence, the UK Government, Parliament, the devolved legislatures ... on any matter within their competence."

MacKay Hannah advises that by sponsoring events, clients can get "closer to your target partners and policy makers ... influence debate ... [and] meet potential new partners and customers".

An SNP spokesman said: "There is no doubt that this is embarrassing for Labour, who seem to have been again caught saying one thing in public and doing the opposite in private."

Findlay last night said he had no knowledge of the sub-let arrangement and refused to comment.

A Labour spokesman said: "We conducted a full property search for suitable premises close to the Scottish Parliament. We have entered into an open market-rent lease for the office space."

MacKay Hannah could not be contacted yesterday.