Scotland's health minister racks up £11,000 bill on parliament iPad

Michael Matheson incurred a fee of £10,935.74 during a week-long holiday in Morocco.

A Scottish minister racked up nearly £11,000 in roaming data charges on his iPad while on holiday in Morocco.

Michael Matheson, who is currently the health secretary, incurred a fee of £10,935.74 during the week-long visit around Christmas last year.

Scottish Labour’s deputy leader said the senior member of the Scottish Government “should have known better”.

As the device was issued by the Scottish Parliament, officials at Holyrood challenged the fee but the provider declined to waive it.

Matheson has said he will contribute £3,000 towards the bill from his expenses budget and he insists the data use was for parliamentary business.

Labour’s Dame Jackie Baillie told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Thursday that every MSP is asked what devices they are taking abroad in order to ensure an appropriate data plan can be put in place.

She said: “To run up a bill of £11,000 frankly is not just doing emails. It is streaming Netflix or something else. £11,000 is simply not just emails, and it is taxpayers’ money.

“Somebody who is a longstanding MSP should have known better, they should have known the processes that exist in Parliament, the rest of us understand those processes.

“You could be forgiven if you were new in the job, but Michael Matheson has been here as long as I have and that is 24 years. He should have known better.”

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.

A spokesman for him said: “This was a legitimate parliamentary expense to cover constituency work while overseas.

“Mr Matheson was not aware of the problem with his device at the time, which has since been resolved.”

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said: “It’s absolutely scandalous that taxpayers are picking up an enormous tab for Michael Matheson’s mistake.

“Even if we are to believe that he racked up this bill doing parliamentary and constituency work on a festive holiday in Morocco, the onus was on him to connect to the wifi where he was staying or check with the network provider to avoid brutal roaming charges.”

A Scottish Parliament spokesman said: “Substantial roaming charges were incurred by Mr Matheson on his parliamentary iPad while in Morocco at the start of this year.

“As the member was still using the Parliament’s previous mobile provider and hadn’t yet switched to our present contract, he incurred significant data fees over and above its ‘rest of the world’ tariff rate.

“The Parliament challenged the company over the scale of the data fees – which totalled £10,935.74 – and over the late warning to the rising cost, but the company declined to meet or waive any of the charges.

“On the basis that the member has assured the Parliament that these costs were incurred in relation to parliamentary business and not for personal or Government use, we agreed that Mr Matheson would contribute £3,000 from his office cost provision and the remainder would be paid centrally by the Parliament.”

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