Minister's iPad 'examined by parliamentary official in January'

A Scottish Parliament official looked at the device earlier this year 'to ensure it was functioning properly'.

Health secretary Michael Matheson’s iPad examined in January prior to £11,000 bill fallout Getty Images

A minister who racked up £11,000 in data charges while using his government iPad abroad had the device examined in January by a parliamentary official. 

Michael Matheson built up the charges while on holiday in Morocco around Christmas time last year.

The health secretary previously said he would put £3,000 from his expense budget into the bill, with Holyrood making up the remainder, but he will not personally pay EE the cash.

He had said that he did not know he had to change the SIM.

However, STV News revealed on Thursday night that he had been told repeatedly in the year leading up to his holiday to change the card to avoid such costs.

The Scottish Parliament also said Matheson did not tell them he was about to go abroad – something he was meant to do.

Matheson said after reflecting “long and hard” he accepted that it was his fault not to change his iPad’s SIM card to the Scottish Parliament’s new provider.

He has said he will not resign over the issue. 

The Scottish Conservatives have called for the Scottish Parliament’s IT department to examine the device so it can be verified that the bill relates “solely to parliamentary and constituency-related work”.

But Matheson insisted IT officials at the Scottish Parliament have already looked at the iPad and found there had been no personal use.

Matheson told reporters on Monday: “Parliament investigated this issue, keep in mind, back in January, where one of our senior IT officials looked into it and came to a view on this matter.

“That’s why I took the personal decision, as I said in my statement on Friday, that I will reimburse the Parliament for the full costs of that.”

Matheson was then asked if he would hand over his iPad to the parliamentary authorities.

To which he responded: “They investigated the issue back in January.

“They had all the data and everything from it.

“They had access to all of the data on the iPad when they looked at it back in January.”

Matheson accused the Conservatives of “political mischief” over the issue with the iPad, but said: “The issue has already been investigated. I realise they weren’t aware of that.”

A Scottish Parliament spokesperson confirmed that Matheson’s iPad had been examined in January to “ensure it was functioning properly”.

The spokesperson added that the device’s mobile data settings and data use were also reviewed, but a breakdown of data use over a specific timeframe could not be provided by the device. 

An official was able to observe a cumulative total of data use, accrued over the lifetime of the device. 

A Scottish Parliament spokesperson said: “We can confirm a senior IT official examined Mr Matheson’s iPad in person at Holyrood to ensure it was functioning properly, which was duly established.

“The official reviewed the ipad’s mobile data settings and data use, but the device does not provide a breakdown of data over a specific timeframe.

“The official observed a cumulative total, which accrues over the lifetime of the device.”

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