Scottish health secretary Michael Matheson clings on to his job11/17/2023
Scottish health secretary Michael Matheson’s pitiful own goal as he clings on to his job after admitting he had not told the truth about his £11,000 iPad bill and blaming his sons for racking up the charges by watching football on holiday
- Health Secretary Michael Matheson was clinging on to his job last night
- He finally admitted he had not told the truth about his £11,000 data roaming bill
Health Secretary Michael Matheson was clinging on to his job last night after he finally admitted he had not told the truth about his £11,000 data roaming bill.
In an explosive statement to parliament, the beleaguered minister blamed his sons for racking up the majority of the bill by watching football during a family holiday in Morocco.
Choking back tears at Holyrood, Mr Matheson revealed he had spent a week covering up the fact that his work iPad had not been solely used to carry out parliamentary duties.
He said he had wanted to protect his family from political and media scrutiny – before putting the blame on them yesterday when his job was on the line.
But he dismissed calls to step down and insisted he would carry on in his £120,000-a-year ministerial role.
Humza Yousaf’s integrity is also being called into question after he was given the bombshell revelations by Mr Matheson on Tuesday – yet continued to defend the minister and even claimed the ‘case is closed’ on Wednesday.
Health Secretary Michael Matheson was clinging on to his job last night after he finally admitted he had not told the truth about his £11,000 data roaming bill
Humza Yousaf’s integrity is also being called into question after he was given the bombshell revelations by Mr Matheson on Tuesday – yet continued to defend the minister and even claimed the ‘case is closed’ on Wednesday
Opposition leaders yesterday demanded Mr Matheson quit. Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said: ‘Michael Matheson blatantly lied when asked by the media if any of the data costs on his iPad were for personal use. His statement today shows that to be completely untrue.
READ MORE – STEPHEN DAISLEY: I’m a father first, he said, as he took the painful decision to hang his sons out to dry
‘The SNP Health Secretary lied to the press and the public and his position is untenable. Humza Yousaf must sack him immediately.
‘This parliament’s code of conduct requires MSPs to be honest. Michael Matheson has failed that basic test.
‘He gave the parliament written assurances it was legitimate. That promise has been broken. Parliament has been misled.’
Mr Matheson had previously insisted the £11,000 iPad data bill was a legitimate expense and had been racked up doing work for constituents as he holidayed in Morocco over Christmas.
It emerged that £7,000 of the usage came on January 2, the same day as an Old Firm fixture. The bill was paid after officials accepted his assurances it was used for his work as an MSP.
But the scandal exploded last week when it first emerged he had claimed £3,000 towards the bill in March, the rest being paid by the parliament.
In his personal statement to MSPs yesterday, Mr Matheson said it was only last Thursday – 24 hours after revelations about his data bill emerged – that he was informed by his wife that other family members had used the data.
Scottish Health Secretary Michael Matheson was quizzed by journalists over his iPad charges
In his personal statement to MSPs yesterday, Mr Matheson said it was only last Thursday – 24 hours after revelations about his data bill emerged – that he was informed by his wife that other family members had used the data
Asked by a journalist on Monday if there had been any personal use, he said ‘no’. The Health Secretary’s spokesman yesterday tried to defend Mr Matheson’s answer by claiming he had not personally used the iPad.
In yesterday’s statement, the minister said it was only after ‘significant media coverage’ that his wife made him aware on Thursday night that ‘other members of our family had made use of the iPad data’.
READ MORE – SNP minister who racked up almost £11,000 in iPad data roaming charges while on holiday in Morocco ‘told to change his SIM card almost a year before his trip’
He said: ‘This was the first I knew that the data had been used by anyone else. I’d previously checked this but the truth only emerged after the story was in the news. I should have pressed harder. Perhaps I should have been less willing to believe what I had been told.’
He said he took responsibility for the iPad and the data use and this is why he had contacted parliamentary authorities last Friday to repay the money.
Mr Matheson said: ‘In my statement issued last Friday I made no reference to the use of data by my family. As a parent, I wanted to protect them from being part of the political and media scrutiny associated with this, something I believe any parent would want to do. I’m a father first and foremost.
‘I can see now it’s just not possible to explain the data usage without explaining their role. Presiding Officer, the simple truth is they were watching football matches.’
He said he told the First Minister on Tuesday that members of his family had made use of the iPad’s data and then provided him with a full account on Wednesday evening. ‘Disclosing this information about my family has been extremely difficult,’ he said.
‘Mistakes have been made: by me and by my family. And mistakes have been made in the way in which I have handled this.
‘I should have sorted the sim card. I should have investigated what happened more thoroughly. I accept that, take full responsibility and apologise unreservedly.’
He said: ‘I should have sorted the sim card. I should have investigated what happened more thoroughly. I accept that, take full responsibility and apologise unreservedly’
He has referred himself to the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body (SPCB) under the MSP code of conduct. The code states ‘no improper use should be made of any payment or allowance made to members for public purposes’.
A Scottish parliament spokesman last night said the SPCB will consider the referral before commenting on any next steps.
After his statement, Mr Matheson was asked by journalists if he would resign. He said: ‘No I don’t intend to… I intend to continue to work as MSP for Falkirk West and also to take on the considerable responsibilities as Health Secretary.’
Earlier, Mr Yousaf insisted that he had ‘absolute confidence in Michael Matheson as the Cabinet Secretary for Health’.
Mr Ross asked Mr Matheson if he had ‘misled the Scottish people’, adding: ‘That roaming bill was accrued not due to parliamentary duties, which he claimed, and therefore he falsely claimed that money.’
Attempting to defend why his previous statement made no mention of data use by his family, Mr Matheson said: ‘I chose not to provide details of that in my statement on Friday because it would implicate my children in this.
‘I chose not to provide that information in order to try and protect them from the inevitable media scrutiny… I did that as a father.’
READ MORE – SNP Health Minister’s £11,000 iPad bill – paid for by the taxpayer
Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: ‘Anyone who has had teenage children will understand what happened. But what people will not understand is the cover-up, and this has only had the effect of heightening the media scrutiny which understandably he did not want for his family.’
Mr Matheson confirmed he had given his son the passcode for a parliamentary iPad to set up a hotspot for his mobile. But he insisted that he did not personally view the football and did not know that it was being watched.
The Tories have indicated they intend to lodge a motion of no confidence in Mr Matheson in the coming days.
At First Minister’s Questions, Mr Ross said Mr Yousaf should have ‘demanded that Michael Matheson hand over the device to be examined’. He added: ‘The First Minister has put his own personal reputation on the line.
When this story broke, Humza Yousaf said the £11,000 was a ‘legitimate expense’ – he said that the money didn’t need to be repaid to the taxpayer.
‘He gave him his 100 per cent backing. The First Minister is claiming Michael Matheson’s word is more important than the facts. But Humza Yousaf’s integrity is at stake here.’
Mr Yousaf said ‘honest mistakes do happen’ and described the minister as ‘a man of honesty and integrity’.
He added: ‘Instead of rushing to besmirch each other, perhaps our politics would be a little better if we gave each other the benefit of the doubt.’
How his story kept changing – and Humza kept backing him
November 8: Challenged about the data bill, Michael Matheson’s spokesman said: ‘This was a legitimate parliamentary expense to cover constituency work while overseas.
‘Mr Matheson was not aware of the problem with his device at the time, which has since been resolved.’
November 9: Mr Matheson said: ‘It’s been explained that it’s been caused by an outdated sim card that was in an iPad that I had for constituency purposes, which was a parliamentary iPad.
‘It hadn’t been replaced – I wasn’t aware that it had to be replaced – and the cost built up as result of that.
‘So it was something that was unknown to me as well and as the parliament has also confirmed… the parliamentary equipment was used for constituency and parliamentary purposes.’
November 9: Asked if Mr Matheson should repay the money, First Minister Humza Yousaf said: ‘No, the parliamentary authorities have already confirmed of course that it was a legitimate parliamentary expense.’
November 10: Confirming that he would reimburse parliament for the entire sum, Mr Matheson said: ‘I have reflected long and hard and accept that the sim card on this device should have been replaced at an earlier stage.
‘It is my decision to reimburse these costs in full…’
November 13: When asked again if there was any personal use, he said: ‘No, as I made very clear on that. Parliament investigated this issue back in January, where one of their senior IT officials looked into its use as well and came to a view on this matter…’
November 15: Mr Yousaf said he had ‘absolute and full confidence’ in Mr Matheson and claimed that ‘we have drawn a line under the matter and the case is closed’.
November 16: In a statement to MSPs he admitted he learned on November 9 that his sons had used the iPad data.
He said: ‘As a parent, I wanted to protect them from being part of the political and media scrutiny associated with this, something I believe any parent would want to do. I am a father first and foremost. Presiding Officer, the simple truth is they were watching football matches.’
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