Ex-minister says sanction for iPad scandal is 'politicised' 

Former Scottish health secretary Michael Matheson described the sanction as 'excessive and unfair'.

Former Scottish health secretary Michael Matheson said the Holyrood committee which recommended a 27-day suspension for him was “politicised” and the sanction was “excessive”.

Speaking to journalists following First Minister’s Questions, he said: “I acknowledge the recommendations that the committee have made.

“I think it’s pretty clear though that the process has become highly politicised, which has compromised the process and the fairness of the process.

“I also think the sanctions they’ve imposed are excessive and they are unfair.”

Matheson said it is now for parliament to decide on the next steps for the report, and said he would “abide” by whatever decision it takes.

He said he hoped he would continue representing Falkirk West “for many years to come”.

Matheson was investigated by the committee after he racked up a near-£11,000 data roaming bill on his parliamentary iPad during a family holiday in Morocco, which he later revealed had been the result of his teenage sons using the device as a wifi hotspot to watch football.

Initially, Matheson had attempted to use a combination of his office costs and expenses to cover the bill, but he later said he would pay it himself after the issue was made public.

As well as a the 27 day ban, he must also sacrifice 54 days of salary.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Tories will seek to force Michael Matheson to resign in a vote next week, the party’s leader has said.

Douglas Ross accused the former health secretary of “deceit and abuse of trust” in the scandal over his near-£11,000 data roaming bill.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Ross hit out at the First Minister’s description of the process which recommended Matheson be banned for 27 days and sacrifice 54 days of salary as “prejudicial”.

“That is incredible and indefensible by the First Minister,” Ross said of Swinney’s backing of his MSP.

“He told us when asking for our support to make him First Minister, he would be First Minister for all of Scotland.

“What Scotland is seeing is he’s a First Minister that backs his pals.”

Scottish First Minister John Swinney also claimed the process that recommended Michael Matheson be barred from Holyrood for 27 days was “prejudiced”.

Holyrood’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee said on Thursday a majority of its members backed the suspension, while unanimously agreeing the former health secretary should lose his salary for 54 days, with the sanctions subject to a vote in Parliament.

Matheson now faces pressure to stand down as an MSP and force a by-election as the Scottish Conservatives will hold a vote urging him to resign in Holyrood next week.

Fellow Tory MSP Stephen Kerr announced earlier this year he would resign from the committee because he could not be objective in the Matheson case and he was replaced by Conservative Oliver Mundell.

Ross said if the vote is approved, a by-election could be held on July 4 – the same date as the General Election – to allow a new MSP to be voted in.

The Tory leader said the First Minister needs to “consider carefully his reputation and the reputation of this Parliament if he continues down the route he seems to be going”.

Standards committee convener Martin Whitfield earlier revealed its recommendations to Parliament.

He said: “Mr Matheson has set out that since becoming aware of the circumstances in which the data usage occurred, he has been motivated by seeking to protect his family.

“Mr Matheson has described the significant impact that there has been on his family.

“The committee acknowledges the impact of the significant media and other intrusions which took place on Mr Matheson and his family.

“However, the obligations all members have under the code, the expenses scheme and relevant SPCB (Scottish Parliament Corporate Body) policies are of paramount importance in upholding the integrity of the scheme and the ethical standards framework, flowing from the Nolan Principles, that underpin the conduct of parliamentary duties.

“Any failure to meet those obligations has an adverse impact on the reputation of the expenses scheme, members and the Parliament as a whole.”

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