NICOLA Sturgeon has been urged to replace the corporate lobbyist chairing the party's new commission on economic policy for an independent Scotland.

The First Minister announced on Friday that former MSP Andrew Wilson would head a Growth Commission as part of the SNP’s listening exercise on independence.

The Commission will “examine the projections for Scotland’s finances in the context of independence and consider a policy programme – with social justice at its heart – to grow the economy and reduce Scotland’s deficit,” Sturgeon said.

However Wilson’s appointment stunned lobby industry watchers, with one saying it looked like the “corporate capture of parts of Scotland’s democratic government”.

A former economist, Wilson is the managing partner of Charlotte Street Partners, a secretive and influential firm with close ties to the SNP and the financial sector.

With offices in London and Edinburgh, CSP calls itself as “a strategic communications company”, helping businesses engage with “policymakers, politicians and regulators”.

Past clients include Cluff Natural Resources, which wanted to burn coal under the Firth of Forth to release methane, a process branded “frightening and experimental” by Friends of the Earth.

CSP has also lobbied for Irn Bru maker AG Barr, whose drinks will be hit by the new UK sugar tax, and mobile phone mast firm Wireless Infrastructure Group.

However it is not a member of the Association of Professional Political Consultants or Chartered Institute of Public Relations, both of which operate voluntary client registers.

CSP does not volunteer its clients, which means the public would not know if Wilson had conflicts of interest when developing potential government policy.

Wilson, 45, an SNP MSP from 1999-2003 and former communications chief for RBS, co-founded CSP with Malcolm Robertson, son of Labour peer Lord George Robertson, in 2014.

The company’s chairman is establishment financier Sir Angus Grossart.

Former SNP spin doctor chief Kevin Pringle also became a partner last year.

Wilson owns a seventh of the firm’s issued shares.

SNP insiders say CSP staff are regularly visitors at Westminster.

In December, David Cameron was forced to abandon a bid to extend Sunday trading hours in England and Wales after Nationalist MPs suddenly opposed the move, even though it did not affect Scotland.

SNP MPs initially showed little interest in the issue but changed their minds after the Keep Sunday Special campaign hired CSP for “strategic communications advice”.

LibDem MSP Mike Rumbles said: “This announcement must have come as a shock to left-wing supporters of independence. Appointing such a high-profile corporate lobbyist to this role suggests that, for all their social democrat rhetoric, the SNP are determined to take their lead from the Tories on business policy. The SNP have always talked left but walked right.”

Willie Sullivan, of the Scottish Alliance on Lobbying Transparency, said: “I did a triple take, pinched myself several times, but yes, the governing party has appointed a leading corporate lobbyist to head up a key plank of their economic policy.

He added: “Does anyone in Scotland not know that the interests of big corporations are very often in conflict with the interests of the public? So in whose interest are the government running the economy, the people or the powerful few?”

Dr Will Dinan of Spinwatch, which monitors the lobbying industry, added: “Andrew Wilson is a well-known conduit between the upper reaches of the SNP and the corporate sector in Scotland.

“His work as a commercial lobbyist raises serious concerns about conflicts of interest and privileged access that must be addressed.”

A RISE spokesperson added: “Democracy is something that we must be constantly vigilant about and protect, especially against wealthy elites who seek to operate in the shadows. The appointment of Andrew Wilson is a cause for concern – a slap in the face for lobbying transparency campaigners. How do we know what agenda Wilson could be pursuing as chair of the Growth Commission when we don’t know the clients of the firm he founded?”

Wilson told the Sunday Herald: “I would not describe myself as a corporate lobbyist. I have been asked to do something on a voluntary basis and hopefully people can judge it on the basis of the work that we do. I try my best to conduct myself with complete integrity at all times and I don’t have any doubts about conflicts of interests.”

An SNP spokesman said: “Andrew Wilson is a very experienced and skilled choice to head up the Growth Commission. Its full membership – which will be published within the next two weeks – will draw on a range of economic, academic and business expertise.”