Parliament to investigate minister over £11,000 iPad roaming bill

Michael Matheson sons racked up the charges streaming football on his official device in Morocco.

Context
  • Holyrood to investigate health secretary over iPad use
  • Michael Matheson racked up an £11,000 roaming bill while on holiday in Morocco
  • SNP minister admitted his sons had used it to stream football
  • He said he only found out how the bill was accrued after it caused a political row
  • Health secretary initially billed the taxpayer for the charge before saying he would pay it himself
  • Scottish Tories call for him to go after accusing him of misleading the public

The Scottish Parliament has launched an investigation into the health secretary after he racked up an £11,000 roaming bill on an official iPad.

Michael Matheson had initially billed the taxpayer for the charge before saying he would pay it himself months later when it became public knowledge.

He had denied that it was used for personal reasons on his holiday to Morocco in 2022 but later admitted his sons streamed football on it.

In a tearful admission to MSPs, the SNP minister said he was trying to protect his family.

First Minister Humza Yousaf has given Matheson his full support but the Scottish Tories are pushing for a no-confidence vote in him.

First Minister Humza Yousaf has given Matheson his full support but the Scottish Tories are pushing for a no-confidence vote in him.

Holyrood’s corporate body will carry out the probe to ensure the minister followed the MSP Code of Conduct.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Parliament said on Thursday: “The SPCB met this morning to consider its next steps with regard to Michael Matheson’s statement to Parliament last week.

“While, as previously made clear, there is no mechanism for members to self-refer to the SPCB, the Corporate Body has a vital interest in the integrity of the Members’ Expenses Scheme, the principle that SPCB funded resources are used for parliamentary purposes and that there is public confidence in these matters.

“The Corporate Body will therefore undertake an investigation in line with its duties under the MSP Code of Conduct.

“The investigation will consider whether the claims for £11,000 of public money, incurred through data roaming charges, were proper and met the requirements of the Scheme and whether resources were used for parliamentary purposes in accordance with all SPCB policies.

“The SPCB will seek to conclude its investigation promptly and its findings in fact, will be published.  Depending on those findings, there may be a number of options open to the SPCB, as set out in Section 9 of the Code of Conduct, including referral to the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee (SPCB).”

Such a referral could result in him losing access to “all or part” of his parliamentary expenses “for such period and to such extent as the SPCB may specify” if found to have submitted an “improper claim”, while other unspecified action can be taken if he was found to have misused parliamentary “facilities and services”.

The body said in light of the investigation it will no longer comment on “any matters that could have a bearing on this process or provide a running commentary”.

Following FMQs on Thursday, journalists attempted to question Matheson but the minister said he would not comment will the probe is under way.

During the question session, Douglas Ross accused Matheson of attempting to “dupe” the Scottish taxpayer out of £11,000.

“If government ministers need to be honest why is Michael Matheson still in a job?” Douglas Ross asked Yousaf.

The First Minister insisted the health secretary made an “honest mistake” but Ross said questions remain unanswered and accused the minister of misleading the public.

Scottish Labour leader claimed the Scottish Government has a “problem with the truth”.

Anas Sarwar
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the Scottish Government had an issue with the truth.

“Honesty and integrity is essential for faith in public life to be restored,” he said.

He added: “People have known for a long time that this government has a problem with the truth.”

Yousaf replied: “We should all be telling the truth in our interactions.”

It comes after deputy First Minister Shona Robison said ministers “aim” to tell the truth to the Scottish Parliament.

Pressed on whether ministers “always tell Parliament and the public the truth”, Robison told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I aim, and the Scottish Government aims, to do that.

“Michael Matheson made clear in his statement that he was trying to protect his family from being part of the associated political and media scrutiny.”

Asked if that means it is acceptable for ministers to lie to protect their families, Robison insisted: “No, I didn’t say that.

“What I am saying is Michael Matheson set out the reasons that he was trying to protect his family, he set all that out to Parliament.

“He has said he will co-operate with any inquiry that is established.”

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