THE Scottish Tory leader has been accused of being “mired in cronyism” after admitting to using Holyrood expenses to pay thousands of pounds of rent on a flat half-owned by a “good friend”.

The Herald reports that while working as an MSP, Douglas Ross was the first tenant in the Edinburgh property after it was purchased by refereeing colleague Andrew Dallas and another man in 2016.

The lease was cut short by the 2017 snap General Election which saw Ross move to Westminster as the MP for Moray.

The arrangement, which saw Ross pay £7000 in rent, was allowed within Holyrood rules. They only stop renting from family, business partners or fellow MSPs. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by the landlords.

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The MP told the newspaper: “I don't think there is anything of concern, because ... it was all absolutely within the Scottish Parliament guidance for renting flats.”

In January of 2017 Ross stopped claiming expenses to stay at hotels while working at the Scottish Parliament and became the first tenant at the flat at the Allanfield complex. He stopped living there in July following his election to the Westminster Parliament.

Public records show the rent money went to Dallas and another man who owns the property, who Ross said he did not know.

Ross said he did not consider the situation cronyism because it was “all within the rules”.

"That was a flat that was rented at the value that was well within the budget of the Scottish Parliament,” he said.

"I was made aware of the opportunity to rent that flat in the usual way.

“It was either that or stay in a hotel for several nights a week when I come down to Edinburgh, and I took an opportunity to rent a flat that was absolutely and fully within the guidance that the Scottish Parliament sets out.”

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Ross added that the rental was fully declared at the time and concerns had not been raised.

“I rented a flat in accordance with the guidance set out by the Scottish Parliament, within their limits of renting accommodation, and everything was fully detailed and outlined, and complied with what was asked of MSPs at the time that I was renting the property,” he said.

A spokesperson for the SNP said: "There is a stench of sleaze and cronyism from every part of the Tory party, and now the Scottish Tory leader himself is mired in it.

"Douglas Ross wants us to believe that of all the flats he could have rented in Edinburgh he just so happens to have chosen one owned by one of his friends.

"On May 6 the people of Scotland face a choice of whether to put Scotland's future into the hands of the sleaze-ridden Tories or into its own hands by re-electing Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister with Both Votes SNP."

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour MP Ian Murray said the revelation “risks further eroding trust in politics”.

“We can’t have cronyism rows overshadowing the urgent need for a national recovery, which is why Scotland deserves a better opposition and a better government,” he commented.

And LibDem candidate for Moray Sheila Ritchie said: "I understand the importance of parliamentarians securing appropriate accommodation but with the Conservatives already mired in another round of allegations over sleaziness and cronyism, it's disappointing to hear that the leader of the Scottish Conservatives chose to pick a flat that funnelled money to his mate.

"Given that he intends to return as an MSP after the election, he should tell the public whether he intends to resume this arrangement."

A Scottish Conservative source said Mairi Gougeon, an SNP minister, has been renting a flat from former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale since last year.