Matheson vows to co-operate with Holyrood investigation into £11,000 iPad bill

The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body has agreed to look into an expenses claim the Scottish Health Secretary submitted.

Pa Scotland Political Reporters
Thursday 23 November 2023 16:03 GMT
Michael Matheson said he will co-operate with the investigation (Jane Barlow/PA)
Michael Matheson said he will co-operate with the investigation (Jane Barlow/PA)

Scotland’s under-fire Health Secretary has welcomed an investigation by Holyrood into an expenses claim of almost £11,000 for roaming charges on his Parliament-issued iPad.

Michael Matheson also said he will “fully co-operate” with the probe into the matter by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB).

A Scottish Parliament spokesperson confirmed the investigation will “consider whether the claims for £11,000 of public money, incurred through data roaming charges, were proper” and if they met the requirements of the MSPs’ expenses scheme.

Speaking to journalists after First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Mr Matheson said: “I welcome the decision by the corporate body, which follows on my writing to them last week asking them to investigate this matter.

“Of course I’ll fully co-operate with their investigation and it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment further.”

He added he was “fully focussed on my job as Health Secretary and steering the NHS through what will be a challenging winter period”.

During FMQs, Humza Yousaf accepted Mr Matheson had “absolutely” made mistakes in his handling of the matter.

But the First Minister went on to accuse the Scottish Conservatives of “hypocrisy” in calling for Mr Matheson to be sacked.

Tory leader Douglas Ross used the weekly Holyrood clash to accuse Mr Matheson of trying “to dupe the taxpayer out of £11,000”, but Mr Yousaf insisted it was an “honest mistake” though said it is “right” the SPCB should “get on with the job”.

He also attacked Mr Ross, highlighting the Tory leader previously had to apologise after failing to declare £28,000 in earnings.

Mr Yousaf said: “The point here is we didn’t call for Douglas Ross to quit.

“We accepted the point that he had made an honest mistake. The hypocrisy here that people will see through is Douglas Ross says it is fine for him to make an honest mistake but not for Michael Matheson to make an honest mistake.”

He branded that “political opportunism” by Mr Ross, who had for the second week challenged him over Mr Matheson’s iPad expenses claim.

The Health Secretary revealed last week in an emotional statement to MSPs that his teenage sons had used the device as a hotspot to watch football during family holiday to Morocco over the Christmas break last year.

The public purse initially met the near-£11,000 bill, as Mr Matheson originally insisted the charges were due to an outdated Sim card in the device, which he said had only been used for parliamentary work.

But after saying he only learned of his sons’ use of the iPad after the row over the bill erupted, he agreed to pay back the full costs to the Scottish Parliament.

The SPCB investigation could potentially result in the minister being referred to Holyrood’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee.

At FMQs, Mr Ross pressed Mr Yousaf on whether Mr Matheson had been “telling the truth” when he repeatedly denied there had been any personal use of his iPad.

He added: “If Government ministers need to be honest, why is Michael Matheson still in a job?”

Mr Yousaf replied: “Michael Matheson accepts and admitted to this chamber that he made mistakes in the handling.

“He did what he did to protect his teenage boys.

“Did he make mistakes? Absolutely. Has he admitted that? Absolutely. Has he agreed to pay back the full amount? Absolutely.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader Dame Jackie Baillie joined calls for the Health Secretary to go.

She said: “Our NHS is on the brink of a deadly winter crisis but this Health Secretary is too busy fighting for his job.

“We cannot have the people of Scotland failed by a distracted Health Secretary who is more interested in protecting his ministerial salary than protecting our NHS.

“It is clear that Michael Matheson must go and allow a new Health Secretary to focus on the crisis in our NHS.”

The Scottish Parliament spokesperson had earlier confirmed the SPCB will investigate the matter “in line with its duties under the MSP code of conduct”.

The spokesperson added the “SPCB will seek to conclude its investigation promptly and its findings in fact will be published”.

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