- Michael Matheson racked up nearly £11,000 in roaming charges while on a family holiday last year
- Scottish health secretary says he did not know he had to change his official SIM to new provider
- STV News told Matheson would have been alerted several times to swap out his old card
- MSP agrees to pay £3,000 out of £11,000 bill from his expense budget
- First Minister Humza Yousaf says cabinet secretary should not have to pay back bill
The Scottish minister who racked up a near £11,000 roaming charge on his official iPad while on a family holiday was told repeatedly over the course of the year to update his SIM card, STV News understands.
Michael Matheson has faced criticism after the data bill from his parliamentary iPad was made public following a trip to Morocco last year.
The Scottish Parliament confirmed the costs incurred on the device were because the now-health secretary was using an outdated SIM.
Matheson said he was using an older EE SIM card because he was not aware that it was due to be replaced.
However, the Scottish Parliament has told STV News that the SNP politician would have been alerted up to a year before his holiday that he must replace the card.
Holyrood had switched from using EE as its official provider to Vodafone in December 2021.
Matheson had gone on holiday to Morocco for a week around the Christmas of 2022.
The Scottish Parliament told STV there is a requirement to notify officials before travelling abroad and outwith Europe so the appropriate roaming package can be applied.
STV News was told that Holyrood was not informed that Matheson was going on holiday.
The Falkirk West MSP also said EE “didn’t provide information about the costs that were being incurred”.
“So it was something that was unknown to me, and as the parliament have also confirmed, the parliamentary equipment was used for constituency and parliamentary purposes,” he said.
EE maintains it did issue warnings to the iPad that roaming costs were being accrued.
As the device was issued by the Scottish Parliament, officials at Holyrood challenged the fee but the provider declined to waive it.
The Conservatives have called on Holyrood bosses to investigate the issue but the Scottish Parliament said it probed the roaming charges in January last year.
It was agreed at the time that a policy review of its mobile data usage would take place.
Officials accepted Matheson’s “assurances” that the iPad was used for official business only.
The health minister said he would pay £3,000 towards the bill from his expense budget.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Parliament said: “The circumstances of Mr Matheson’s data charges were investigated by a senior member of the Parliament’s IT office in January this year.
“This included a review of the data volume consumed, the daily pricing charges and the company’s application of tariffs.
“The investigation also confirmed that Mr Matheson had not updated his iPad’s sim card to the new provider as required, or notified the IT office before travelling so that the appropriate roaming package could be applied.
“At the conclusion of the investigation senior officials accepted Mr Matheson’s assurances that all costs incurred were for parliamentary purposes.
“Following the close of the financial year, it was agreed by Parliament’s senior management, in September 2023, that the events of this incident should lead to a policy review of mobile data usage.
“The policy review will include consideration of the potential for Members to be personally liable for costs where they have not acted in full accordance with IT office requirements. That review will be completed before the end of this financial year (end March 2024).
“In addition to reviewing the policy, the Parliament will shortly award a new mobile contract that will enhance technical controls to ensure there is no repeat of these substantial data charges.”
Matheson, who was first elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999, was the net zero, energy and transport secretary at the time the charges were incurred.
He spoke to journalists at Holyrood briefly after FMQs, and said: “It’s been explained that it’s been caused by an outdated SIM card in an iPad that I had for constituency purposes.
“I wasn’t aware that it had to be replaced and the cost built up as a result of that.”
A spokesman for the First Minister said Humza Yousaf had not spoken to the health secretary about the issue.
The spokesman said: “It is a parliamentary matter because it relates to Michael Matheson in his role as an MSP.”
The SNP leader gave the cabinet minister his backing, saying the charge was a “legitimate parliamentary expense” and that Matheson shouldn’t have to pay back the cash.
Matheson and EE have been approached for comment.
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