Tories demand clarity on Matheson ‘mistakes’ over iPad data roaming bill

The Scottish Health Secretary has been under pressure after running up a near-£11,000 bill which was then covered by his expenses.

Craig Paton
Friday 24 November 2023 16:13 GMT
The Health Secretary said last week his sons racked up the bill watching football (Jane Barlow/PA)
The Health Secretary said last week his sons racked up the bill watching football (Jane Barlow/PA)

The Scottish Conservatives have called for clarity over what the First Minister considers were the “mistakes” made by his Health Secretary in the handling of a near-£11,000 data roaming bill on a parliamentary iPad.

Michael Matheson has been under pressure in recent weeks after it emerged he incurred the costs during a trip to Morocco at the turn of the year, which were covered by his expenses and office costs before the minister announced he would pay in full personally.

He later admitted the charges – which included a cost of more than £7,000 in a single day – had been caused by his teenage sons using the parliamentary iPad as a hotspot to watch football.

Was Michael Matheson lying to the press about the reason he incurred the roaming charge bill a mistake?

Craig Hoy, Scottish Tories

The admission, which came as part of an emotional personal statement in Holyrood, was just days after Mr Matheson told journalists there had not been any personal use of the device.

The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body announced on Thursday it would investigate the matter.

While being quizzed on the issue at First Minister’s Questions, Humza Yousaf admitted there were “mistakes” made by the Health Secretary in his handling of the issue.

In a letter to the First Minister, Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy asked him to lay out what “mistakes” he believes Mr Matheson made.

“I am calling on you to reveal what mistakes you think Mr Matheson has made during the handling of this scandal,” he said.

“Further, you should state how these mistakes are compatible with the Scottish Government’s ministerial code that ministers should always be truthful.

“Was Michael Matheson lying to the press about the reason he incurred the roaming charge bill a mistake?

“Was charging the taxpayer £11,000 for a bill he could not account for by his own admission a mistake?

“Was not switching his iPad sim card despite being told by the parliamentary authorities to do so a mistake?

“These are a few of the many problems with Michael Matheson’s handling of this scandal which deserve full transparency from yourself and the Health Secretary.

“If you cannot answer them, the public will increasingly question why you are keeping a man in his job who has lied to them and tried to claim their money without being honest to the Parliament.”

A spokesman for Mr Yousaf said: “The First Minister has set out his position on this matter repeatedly in Parliament, and there is now an independent investigation under way.

“Douglas Ross made a mistake when he failed to properly register thousands of pounds in income and referred himself for investigation – it is rank hypocrisy for the Tories not to offer others the due process which they demanded at the time for him.”

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