Scottish minister Michael Matheson quits after £11,000 iPad roaming bill scandal

Taxpayer initally shouldered the cost, until SNP politician admitted his children had used the device to stream football on a family holiday to Morocco

Kate Devlin
Thursday 08 February 2024 14:40 GMT
Teenage sons watching football on holiday led to £11k iPad bill, Matheson tells MSPs

A Scottish government minister at the centre of a scandal over £11,000 roaming charges incurred on his parliamentary iPad has quit.

Michael Matheson said his teenage sons used his device as a hotspot to watch football while on a family holiday in Morocco.

However, he faced claims of lying to the media and the row increased pressure on Humza Yousaf's SNP government. He has now resigned as Scotland’s health secretary.

In November, the first minister said he was not misled by Mr Matheson, but added that the minister “should have handled the situation better”.

Mr Matheson initially insisted the device had used for parliamentary work during the trip, but later said he had discovered his family’s involvement but did not initially disclose the information to “protect” his children.

He said he was leaving his post so the row over the charges "does not become a distraction" to the government.

When he learned of his children's use of the device, Mr Matheson paid back most the charges, which had originally been picked up by the taxpayer.

A Holyrood investigation is ongoing and Mr Matheson said he was "conscious that this process will conclude in the coming weeks".

Michael Matheson has quit as health secretary (Jane Barlow/PA)

In a letter to Mr Yousaf, he said: “It is in the best interests of myself and the government for me now to step down to ensure that this does not become a distraction to taking forward the government's agenda."

Following increasing pressure over the issue, Mr Matheson had said he would pay the full cost himself.

The long-serving minister has held various roles in the Scottish cabinet for almost 13 years, including the justice, net zero and public health portfolios.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said Mr Yousaf had acted as a “human shield” ininitially defending his “disgraced” health secretary.

“Humza Yousaf should have sacked him the minute it became clear that Michael Matheson had not told the truth,” he said.

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Dame Jackie Baillie said: "While I welcome the news that Michael Matheson has finally gone, the fact is the first minister has big questions to answer over his lack of judgment. “

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said patients "deserve better than an SNP minister who has lost their trust and could no longer focus on the day job".

He added: "From Humza Yousaf to Michael Matheson, our NHS has known only crisis, soaring vacancies and even longer waits."

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