Michael Matheson quits as Scotland's health secretary after £11,000 iPad scandal

First Minister Humza Yousaf thanked Matheson for his work and accepted the health secretary's resignation 'with sadness'.

Key Points
  • Michael Matheson resigns as Scotland’s health secretary
  • It comes ahead of the publication of the investigation into his £11,000 iPad roaming charge
  • The bill was ran up during a family holiday but Matheson had initially insisted he only used it for work reasons
  • He later admitted to MSPs that his sons had used the device to watch football
  • The charge was originally billed to the Scottish taxpayer before Matheson agreed to pay it back in full
  • The former health secretary said he did not want the investigation into the scandal to become a ‘distraction’
  • First Minister Humza Yousaf said he accepts his resignation ‘with sadness’ but critics say he should have sacked the secretary
  • Mini-cabinet reshuffle expected some time today after drugs minister quit on Wednesday

Michael Matheson has resigned as Scotland’s health secretary after he racked up an £11,000 data bill on his official iPad.

It comes hours before he was set to give a major announcement to the Scottish Parliament on alcohol minimum unit pricing.

The minister is awaiting a report on the huge iPad roaming bill he ran up during a family holiday.

The issue led opposition parties to accuse Matheson of lying over whether he knew how the large data usage had occurred.

Choking back tears, he eventually admitted to MSPs that his sons had used the device’s hotspot to watch football.

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Michael Matheson’s constituents react after the health secretary resigns over £11,000 iPad scandal. #stvnews #scotland #news #politics #michaelmatheson #scottishgovernment

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Michael Matheson held back tears when he admitted to the Scottish Parliament his sons had clocked up an £11,000 iPad roaming charge after watching football.

The £11,000 charge was initially billed to the public purse but Matheson later paid for it following the backlash.

The then health secretary had originally insisted the charges had been run up while he was using it for constituency work during the break.

In his statement, he said he had not received the findings of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) investigation yet.

But he said he was standing down because he did not want the scandal to become a distraction for the Scottish Government.

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Health secretary quits ahead of inquiry findings into how he racked up a huge £11,000 bill while on holiday with his family in Morocco. #michaelmatheson #quit #scottiahpolitics #politics #stv #stvnews #news

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In a letter to First Minister Humza Yousaf, he said: “I am conscious that this process will conclude in the coming weeks.

“I have still not received the findings of their review, however, it is in the best interest of myself and the Government for me to now step down to ensure this does not become a distraction to taking forward the government’s agenda.”

He had initially agreed to claim £3,000 of the roaming charges bill as part of his expenses allowance, while his office provision paid the rest – meaning the public purse covered the bill in full.

But after increasing pressure on the issue, Matheson said he would pay the full cost himself.

Matheson added he had been “enormously grateful” for the support Yousaf gave to him and his family over the last year.

He has held various roles in the Scottish cabinet for almost 13 years, including the justice, net zero and public health portfolios.

The First Minister had resisted continued calls from opposition parties for Matheson to be sacked.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - DECEMBER 07: Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf answers questions during First Minister's Questions at Scottish Parliament on December 07, 2023 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Humza Yousaf has been criticised for not sacking Michael Matheson.

Yousaf said it was with “sadness” that he accepted the health secretary’s resignation.

“It is right that, having requested that the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body review your data roaming charges from last year, that you fully engage with that process as it comes to its conclusion,” Yousaf said

“I agree that it is therefore best for you to now step down to ensure you are able to give the parliamentary process the attention it deserves without it becoming a distraction to taking forward the Government’s agenda.”

Opposition parties question Humza Yousaf’s judgement

Opposition parties welcomed Matheson’s decision but accused Yousaf of being “weak” for not sacking him before.

But the First Minister defended his decision not to let the health secretary go, saying he deserved due process.

He told STV News: “I do think, particularly in the cut and thrust in politics which can be pretty brutal, affording someone at least due process in an investigation into what has happened is the right thing to do, particularly when they’ve given decades of service of parliament and the government.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Stephen Kerr said: “An utter humiliation for Humza Yousaf – Michael Matheson has quit as health sec after Humza’s backing.

“It shows again the terrible judgement of the First Minister. This cannot be allowed to continue.”

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Dame Jackie Baillie said: “While I welcome the news that Michael Matheson has finally gone, the fact is the First Minister has big questions to answer over his lack of judgment.

“While our NHS is in crisis, Humza Yousaf has shown his weakness by putting the SNP before our NHS.

“Now more than ever we need a health minister focused on the crisis at hand.

“It’s clear that the First Minister has no plan to save our NHS and that shuffling the SNP deckchairs will make no difference – it’s time for change.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said patients “deserve better than an SNP minister who has lost their trust and could no longer focus on the day job”.

He added: “From Humza Yousaf to Michael Matheson, our NHS has known only crisis, soaring vacancies and even longer waits.”

It’s the second time this week a member of the Scottish Government has resigned after drugs and alcohol minister Elena Whitham left her post.

A cabinet reshuffle is expected some time today.

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