HOLYROOD has cancelled its membership of a controversial business network that was caught up in a row over lobbying.

The decision by MSPs last week means that the future of the Scottish Parliament Business Exchange (SPBE) is in serious doubt.

Launched in 2001, the SPBE was created as a charity to develop a greater understanding between the business world and MSPs.

Placements were offered to elected representatives and member organisations who paid a fee to join the SPBE gave industry briefings to MSPs.

However, the scheme attracted criticism in the early days from transparency campaigners who believed the fee-based system inevitably created preferential access to Holyrood.

A key critic in the first term of the Parliament was SNP MSP Tricia Marwick, who later became Presiding Officer.

The Exchange developed a better reputation under the new leadership of chief executive Arthur McIvor and includes a cross-party selection of MSPs on its board.

However, Holyrood’s governing corporate body has decided against renewing its annual £20,000 a year membership.

Given that a close working relationship with the Parliament is essential for the SPBE, Holyrood insiders now expect the scheme to fold.

McIvor’s Holyrood visitor pass will also stop this week when the dissolution of Parliament starts.

There is no suggestion he has done anything wrong.

Sources said that Holyrood had outgrown a scheme that was no longer viewed as being necessary.

A Scottish Parliament spokesman said: “The opportunities for business to engage and interact with Parliament have grown considerably in the 15 years since the Business Exchange was introduced. Against that backdrop, and increasing budget pressure, the SPCB decided on 15th March not to renew its membership of SPBE in May 2016.”

A SPBE spokesman said: “SPBE notes the statement by the SPCB regarding its funding and support for the SPBE. In light of this the Board will take stock of their options and a further statement will be released in due course. The SPBE is a non-lobbying, non-partisan educational charity regulated by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.”