Labour's demand for more public cash to operate as an opposition party at Holyrood was attacked yesterday as "rank hypocrisy".

Eight years ago Labour at Westminster abruptly cut the opposition support which had been expected for Holyrood, prompting a feisty debate in which ministers dismissed claims the democratic process was being short-changed.

Now Labour says Wendy Alexander receives too little cash to carry out her opposition duties.

The SNP's Alex Neil said: "This is rank hypocrisy from the Labour Party. In 1999 they had a damn cheek to cut funding for the opposition when they were in government. Morally they are on very weak ground as they face up to the realities of defeat and opposition."

Ms Alexander receives an allowance of £22,466 at Holyrood, compared with the £644,000 Tory leader David Cameron receives to run the opposition at Westminster.

While the Tories at Westminster will receive £3.8m this year in an allowance scheme which gives cash to opposition parties in line with MP numbers, Labour at Holyrood will receive £247,000.

A plea for a rethink was made to a panel of Holyrood experts by Sarah Metcalfe, who was taken on five weeks ago as director of research for Labour at Holyrood.

She made the plea in a letter to Sir Alan Langlands, heading a team carrying out a review of the Holyrood allowances system.

"The Scottish leader's allowance of £22,466 is insufficient to meet even the full costs to an employer of a private secretary - never mind the public expectations of a leader's office in terms of interest in the party's approach to parliamentary business and associated policy stances," she said.

"Simply attending to the extra correspondence received by the leader, from the public and civic Scotland in all its various guises, demands significant additional resources."

She said Labour was being "forced" to look at party or external funding to meet the demands of the leader's post, and to consider whether to use a parliamentary allowance intended for Ms Alexander's work as a constituency MSP.

"Such an approach does not serve the interests of either the party or probity," she said.

Appealing for a review of the system, she said that there should be a rethink, particularly as the parties in Holyrood were so evenly balanced.