Humza Yousaf suggests Michael Matheson should not be forced to quit as MSP over iPad bill scandal

First Minister Humza Yousaf has said he “will not interfere” with the Scottish Parliament’s standards committee process after Michael Matheson, the former health secretary, was found to have breached the MSPs’ code of conduct in relation to the near-£11,000 bill he racked up on a parliamentary iPad

Humza Yousaf has suggested former health secretary Michael Matheson should not be forced to quit as an MSP, as he described his ex-minister as a “decent person”.

Mr Yousaf said he would “not interfere” with the Scottish Parliament’s standards, procedures and public appointments committee as it considers how Mr Matheson should be punished for the iPad expenses scandal.

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Mr Matheson was found to have breached the MSPs’ code of conduct in relation to the near-£11,000 bill he racked up on a parliamentary iPad during a family holiday to Morocco.

First Minister Humza Yousaf speaks at the SNP Campaign Counci in Perth, Scotland.First Minister Humza Yousaf speaks at the SNP Campaign Counci in Perth, Scotland.
First Minister Humza Yousaf speaks at the SNP Campaign Counci in Perth, Scotland.

The Falkirk West MSP stepped down from his Cabinet post last month, citing the ongoing parliamentary investigation into the bill as the reason.

Mr Yousaf defended Mr Matheson as details of the expenses scandal first emerged, deciding not to sack him from the health brief, despite pressure after it emerged last year that he initially used parliamentary expenses to pay the bill.

Mr Matheson later agreed to cover the bill himself.

Mr Yousaf told the BBC’s Sunday Show: “Michael made a mistake, there’s no ifs, buts or maybes about that – and decent people can make mistakes.

“He’s paid a price for that, literally, he’s paid back all of the money and he’ll obviously now be referred to the Parliament standards committee to make a judgment, and I won’t interfere in that process.”

Opposition politicians have called for Mr Matheson to stand down as an MSP as a result of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) report. But asked if the former minister should quit, the First Minister said: “No, I don’t think that’s the case.

“He’s a decent person that made a mistake. There are MSPs that have made mistakes and they’ve had to face the consequences of those mistakes.

“I’ve not heard Michael say anything other than he’ll accept what those consequences are, and I’m sure he’ll accept whatever the parliamentary committee decides and deliberates on.”

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Mr Yousaf added: “I mean, if there's somebody out there who's lived a saintly life, that's completely unblemished, then so be it … Michael made a mistake. And not only that, of course, he also lost his job in government and he's paying a price for that. Decent people can make mistakes.”

The SPCB said its full report would be released after consideration by Holyrood’s standards committee.

The body said: “While the costs to the public purse had been addressed, the SPCB agreed that the Nolan Principles of Standards in Public Life, embedded in the scheme and underpinning the appropriate use of parliamentary resources, represented the high standard by which all members must abide and in which the SPCB considered the public must continue to have confidence.”

The report has been referred to the standards committee to consider if the former minister should be sanctioned.

A statement released last week by the SPCB said: “The SPCB decided that, based on the evidence presented in the investigation report and its findings in fact, Mr Matheson had breached sections 7.3 and 7.4 of the code of conduct and thereby upheld the three complaints within the SPCB’s remit.”

Initially, Mr Matheson used his MSP expenses and office costs to cover the bill, before resolving to pay it himself following pressure from the opposition and the public.

In an emotional statement in Holyrood last year, the-then health secretary said the costs had been incurred by his teenage sons, who had used the parliamentary iPad as a wifi hotspot to watch football during a holiday in Morocco.

Mr Matheson had initially told journalists there had been no personal use of the device.

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Asked why he had not sacked Mr Matheson, the First Minister said: "I'm somebody who genuinely believes in due process and I said that at the time it was important that Michael had that due process. The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body then investigated the matter.

"When it became abundantly clear that that investigation was going to take up a significant amount of Michael's time, he and I agreed that he should step back from government and concentrate on that process." Mr Yousaf added: "You've got every right, of course, to ask me about Michael Matheson, but what I'm concentrating on is making sure we're supporting the NHS through its recovery."

Scottish Tory deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said the saga surrounding Mr Matheson had reinforced the argument for a process to remove MSPs, as proposed by fellow Tory member Graham Simpson.

She said: “The Michael Matheson scandal has reinforced the need for a Recall Bill. Even today, Matheson’s great friend Humza Yousaf could only meekly defend him staying.

“As it stands, there is no way for voters to remove a disgraced or failing MSP from office between elections.”

No MSP, she said, should be able to “down tools”.

“It’s not enough for Michael Matheson to resign as a minister, after months of cover-up and deceit,” the Tory deputy leader said.

“So I am calling on the SNP and the other Holyrood parties to back my colleague Graham Simpson’s recall proposals, which will protect our democracy from a minority of bad apples at Parliament.

“This needn’t and shouldn’t be a partisan political issue. The vast majority of MSPs, of all parties, should have nothing to fear.”

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Scrutiny around Mr Matheson’s political future comes as the SNP’s longest-serving MP said he would not use one of the party’s key messages in the coming general election campaign.

Ahead of an expected Westminster vote in the latter part of this year, the SNP has set its sights on wiping out the Conservatives north of the border, winning all seven of the seats held by Rishi Sunak’s party.

On Saturday, First Minister Humza Yousaf addressed SNP activists, using the phrase “Tory-free” multiple times and telling Scottish Tory MPs: “The SNP is coming for you.”

But Pete Wishart – the party’s Perth and North Perthshire MP since 2001 – said on Sunday he would not be using the same messaging.

“Much as I will be doing everything possible to ensure that the Tories are kept out of Perth and Kinross-shire I won’t be using this ‘Tory-free’ rhetoric as part of my campaign,” he said on X.

However, the Scottish Tories pointed out Mr Wishart had already used the phrase in a post on X just over a week ago.

Scottish Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said the First Minister’s “divisive rhetoric” was an “insult to the hundreds of thousands of people who vote Scottish Conservative”.

“It’s interesting that the SNP’s longest-serving MP is now disowning his leader’s ugly rhetoric,” he said. “But it’s only been eight days since Pete Wishart trotted it out himself – so he has no credibility posing as a man of integrity.”

The SNP has been contacted for comment.



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