THE disgraced former SNP finance secretary Derek Mackay is attempting to embark on a new career as a consultant, the Herald can reveal.

The 44-year-old vanished from public life two years ago on the eve of the Scottish budget after a sleaze scandal involving a 16-year-old schoolboy.

He has now set up his own firm, Lochan Associates Ltd, which Companies House says will conduct “management consultancy activities other than financial management”.

Incorporated earlier this week, it lists Mr Mackay as its sole director, sole shareholder and sole “person with significant control”.

The company is registered at the address of a chartered accountancy firm in Paisley, within Mr Mackay’s former constituency of Renfrewshire North and West.

The Herald:

A website with the name of the company has also been registered.

The timing is significant. Under the Scottish ministerial code, former ministers are banned from lobbying the Government for two years, and must seek advice from an official watchdog body about any work or appointments within two years of leaving office.

Now that he has been out of Government for just over two years, Mr Mackay is able to lobby his former cabinet colleagues and officials without such checks.

Any face-to-face meetings would be logged in the minimal Holyrood lobbying register. 

The Tories said there must be no preferential treatment for him.

Mr Mackay quit the cabinet in February 2020 after the Scottish Sun revealed he contacted a boy over social media without knowing his age, then sent him 270 messages in six months.

He called him “cute”, invited him to dinner, and asked for their conversations to stay secret.

Opposition parties called it “predatory” and a textbook example of “grooming”.

Mr Mackay apologised “unreservedly” to the boy, but he was suspended by the SNP and a party investigation launched into his behaviour.

He left the SNP in March 2021 and the probe’s findings were never made public. 

At the time, he was seen as a potential successor to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon - a role now occupied by his replacement, Kate Forbes.

Mr Mackay did not return to work at Holyrood after the scandal, but continued to draw a full salary of £64,700 while sitting as an Independent MSP for over a year.

He was also paid an automatic grant of £11,945 for “loss of ministerial office”, and a further £53,725 “resettlement grant” when he left Holyrood for good at last year’s elections.

His well-paid absence led to calls for a new system to oust errant MSPs.

At present, MSPs can only be removed if they are sentenced to a year or more in jail.

READ MORE: Derek Mackay set for share of £2.2m in MSP golden goodbyes

Russell Findlay, a Scottish Conservative MSP for West Scotland, said: “After shamelessly milking every last dime from Scottish taxpayers since his downfall, Derek Mackay's legacy is likely to be a new law being brought forward by the Scottish Conservatives that will allow rogue MSPs to be sacked.

“Perhaps the supposed one-time First Minister in waiting hopes to exploit his SNP connections to continue gorging on public funds. 

“But all public bodies have a responsibility to adhere to the rules and not treat him any differently to others seeking to get a foot in the door.

“It seems that his new venture has been timed so that he is no longer bound by the conditions that apply to recently departed government ministers.”

Mr Mackay is not the first failed politician to try his hand at being a consultant.

Mark McDonald, the former SNP children’s minister, who quit over a sleaze scandal in 2017 and sat as an Independent until 2021, has set up Square Peg Consulting in Aberdeen. 

Its services include political engagement”, helping clients navigate Holyrood affairs.

After leading Scottish Labour to near extinction in the 2015 general election, when the party lost 40 of its 41 seats, Jim Murphy also set up Arden Strategies Ltd.

Despite a slow start, the business appears to have prospered. 

According to its latest accounts, it had shareholder funds of £342,086 at 31 October 2020.

The Herald attempted to contact Mr Mackay by several routes but there was no response.