Health secretary racked up £8,000 iPad roaming charges in one day

Michael Matheson used over 3GB of data on January 2 while on holiday in Morocco earlier this year.

Scottish health secretary racked up £8,000 iPad roaming charges in one day Getty Images

Scotland’s health secretary spent more than £8,000 in roaming charges on a Parliament-issued iPad in a single day, it has emerged.

Michael Matheson used over 3GB of data while on holiday in Morocco on January 2 having failed to update an old sim card or secure a data bandle before the trip.

A breakdown of charges from provider EE showed charges totalling £8,600 on that date – more than half the nearly £11,000 total racked up over the vacation.

There is a requirement to notify the Parliament’s IT office before travelling abroad and outwith Europe so that the appropriate roaming package can be applied.

But Matheson failed to do so and, with no cap on data charges, the health secretary was charged additional fees.

The EE bill for Michael Matheson's Morocco holiday.Scottish Parliament

A further £2,249 was accrued for 1.26GB of data on December 28 last year, while smaller fees of £20.17 and £6 respectively were charged on December 31 and January 3.

Matheson, who has agreed to pay the fees back, said he was conducting official constituency business when racking up the charges.

However, an urgent review into mobile devices and roaming charges has been launched by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB).

Presiding officer Alison Johnstone, who ordered the review, said: “This is an issue which I and the SPCB take very seriously. We must be in a position where we have reviewed and tightened all policies to ensure the present situation cannot happen again.

“The policy review will also set out the circumstances, and cost thresholds, for ‘out of the ordinary’ bills to be escalated to the SPCB for explicit sign off. 

“This will ensure full transparency and full accountability. It is vital that we have every confidence in the expenses scheme and that its integrity is maintained.”

The Scottish Conservatives are threatening to bring a vote of no confidence in the health secretary if he refuses to hand over the device to the Scottish Parliament to allow officials to verify if the bill was accrued while using it for work purposes.

A motion could be tabled as early as Thursday, the Tories said.

First Minister Humza Yousaf has continued to back Matheson, saying he believed it was an “honest mistake”.

“For me, the matter is now closed,” he added.

“He has agreed to pay back every single penny of that expense, even though the Parliament wasn’t asking him to do so.”

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