Scotland’s health secretary has been threatened with a vote of no confidence unless he hands over the iPad he used on holiday which ran up an £11,000 roaming bill.
The Scottish Tories said Michael Matheson giving the device over to the Scottish Parliament’s IT experts for scrutiny was the only way to verify his claims that it was used solely for parliamentary and constituency matters.
The SNP MSP had clocked up the data charge while on a family trip to Morocco last year.
The taxpayer was initially set to foot the bill but following pressure the health secretary decided to pay the amount in full.
The Scottish Conservatives have continued questioning the minister about how he ran up such a large bill.
“We need to get to the bottom of this saga once and for all,” party leader Douglas Ross said. “So the Scottish Conservatives are issuing the health secretary with an ultimatum – hand over the iPad, for the browsing history to be checked, and deliver a personal statement in Parliament explaining the full circumstances, or we’ll table a motion of no confidence.”
Matheson has insisted the Parliament had “access to all of the data on the iPad when they looked at it back in January”.
But Holyrood authorities said they were “primarily looking at the volume of mobile data consumed” as they had been assured the device was being used to parliamentary purposes.
Ross said the cabinet minister still has “serious questions to answer”.
The Conservative added that “suspicions will linger” unless Matheson can provide evidence to show the costs were incurred while he was doing parliamentary work.
Ross said: “This scandal has dragged on for several days now and Michael Matheson is looking shiftier with each one that passes.
“He still has serious questions to answer, and suspicions will linger for as long as he fails to prove his claim that the enormous tab he expected taxpayers to foot was the product solely of parliamentary work.”
He said it was “clear the Scottish Parliament officials have not examined the browser history of his iPad”, adding that this was “the only way Mr Matheson’s claims can be verified”.
The Conservative leader added: “This is about the integrity of a senior SNP cabinet minister.
“Twice Michael Matheson has appeared before journalists, and twice he has failed to give coherent answers to key questions. He must do so now.”
Matheson would likely survive any vote of no confidence with the SNP and Greens – who are in government together – amounting to a majority of MSPs at Holyrood.
The Scottish Tories previously tabled a failed vote of no confidence in Greens minister Lorna Slater.
They had also put forward a vote of no confidence in Nicola Sturgeon in 2021, which was defeated 65 to 31, with 27 abstentions.
In the same year, the Scottish Conservatives tried to oust John Swinney with a no-confidence vote. It was the second against Sturgeon’s then-deputy to fail after Scottish Labour had tabled one in 2020.
A spokesperson for First Minister Humza Yousaf said the government would “of course” back Matheson if there is to be a confidence vote in the health secretary.
Meanwhile, an SNP spokesperson said: “This is simply an attempt to keep a story going, days after Mr Matheson has done the right thing and agreed to foot the bill personally.
“While we are focused on crucial issues such as steering our health service through the winter, the Tories only ever want to talk about process issues.”
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